Archive for March, 2010

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Postgame

March 26, 2010

And so it ended with a whimper, not the bang Republicans hoped their trivial and obstructionist amendments would bring about. Republican Senators, apparently eager to retain the special treatment given to states like Nebraska under the health care legislation signed into law by President Obama on Tuesday, spent the Senate’s time offering a few trivial objections to the legislation’s reconciliation status, under the apparent impression that such activity would cause great consternation in the House. The House shrugged and passed it, with a 220-207 vote.

Since it became law, Republicans have misjudged the public’s appreciation for their attempts to block health care reform, which is no real surprise, because they did exactly the same thing before the Democrat’s legislation passed. My colleague James Morrow reported gleefully that a CNN poll conducted last week found 59 per cent of Americans were opposed to the bill. He either didn’t know, or didn’t care to let you know, that the actual poll [PDF] found that 13 per cent of Americans opposed the bill because it is not liberal enough. That is, a 52 per cent majority of the American population was either in favour of the legislation, or wanted it to go even farther than it did. And despite James’ willingness to reproach New York Times columnist Paul Krugman for failing to fact-check a Washington Post article that may have misrepresented some comments from Newt Gingrich, when I emailed James to let him know he hadn’t properly communicated the findings of the poll, he disregarded my advice entirely.

But Republicans don’t need to look to even the second reported finding on a poll to discover people don’t mind Obama’s new health care reforms. Gallup reported a new poll earlier this week finding that 49 per cent of Americans think it is a good thing that Congress passed the bill. Only 40 per cent think it is a bad thing. 50 per cent were enthusiastic or pleased, while 42 per cent were angry or disappointed. My guess is that a big chunk of Democrats that had once been upset that the bill was not as liberal as they would like quickly realised they actually were impressed with what Barack Obama had accomplished.

When the House passed the Senate’s original legislation this past Sunday, Republican Senator John McCain said, “there will be no cooperation for the rest of the year … they have poisoned the well.” If Republicans believe—and they seem to—that doubling-down on their obstructionist tactics will pay off electorally for them, they’re sadly mistaken. They’ve confused the anger a depression-battered American public has for its government with the enthusiasm their small sliver of a base has for their own right wing ideology.

In 2006 and 2008, Americans threw their support behind the Democratic party because it had credible approaches to confront the problems with the country’s health care, foreign policy, and economy. And even though the Democrats aren’t as popular as they once were, the Republicans have offered no ideas to convince an American populace the GOP is better placed to solve their problems. The CNN poll I referred to above shows as much; people trust Congressional Democrats to solve major health care over Congressional Republicans on a 45-39 ratio, and President Obama over Congressional Republicans on a 51-39 ratio.

Make no mistake: right now, the American people’s dissatisfaction with its government means Republicans will likely gain a lot of seats in the midterms this November. But the best way the party can prevent that from happening would be to confuse that hostility to incumbents with approval of anything Republicans are doing. Because right now, the GOP is doing its darndest to score an own-goal in what should be a mid-term cakewalk. Or do they think Americans will vote for angry, obstructionist candidates who propose to once again allow health insurance companies to reject them based on pre-existing conditions?

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And I have met my destiny in quite a similar way…

March 22, 2010

The package of changes called HR 4872 has just passed the House, with a final vote of 220-211. This is the Reconciliation bill that amends the Senate’s version, which was passed earlier this evening (here’s the breakdown of votes). Assuming President Obama signs the Senate bill, it will become law. The Reconciliation still needs the President’s approval and the Senate’s endorsement before its changes will also become law, however, Republicans will not be permitted to filibuster it. That means it will require a mere 50 votes to pass, assuming President of the Senate Joe Biden would cast his vote in favour.

It seems like a good moment for a tune:

“This health care issue is D-Day for freedom in America … If we’re able to stop Obama on this it will be his Waterloo. It will break him” — South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint.

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Status of HR 3590

March 22, 2010

hcrpassed

Final vote: 219-212 in favour.

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Still waiting for the five point palm-exploding heart technique*

March 22, 2010

Bart Stupak reveals Obama pinky-swore not to pay for abortions (Photo: AP)

The vote on actual passage of H.R. 3590, that is, the Senate’s version of the Health Care bill, is still a couple hours away, but the post-match analyses are going up already. The House has agreed to the rules for the bill, which suggests a near certainty that the bill itself has the numbers. Even before that though, the victorious were celebrating, the defeated were casting recriminations and fighting to maintain morale, and the pundits were busy punditicising.

Debate has been slowed, but not halted, by a series of Republican requests for votes on technicalities involving the rules, all of which have been reliably defeated. Democrats received a major boost when Michigan Representative Bart Stupak revealed, in a press conference at 4pm D.C. time, that he had come to a deal with the President on abortion provisions; basically, the deal was that Obama would make an executive order requiring that the law follow the law. Stupak then told the press the Democrats easily have the 216 votes required to pass the legislation.

Meanwhile, outside, Tea Party protesters railed against the bill, at times encouraged by some Republican members, though Minority Leader John Boehner described some of the protesters as reprehensible. (Some were; epithets like “nigger” and “faggot” have been shouted by tea partiers at black and gay Congresspeople.) The fray even intruded in to the House, where one “Kill the Bill” protester disrupted proceedings from the Gallery, cheered on by Republican members.

I’m not going to be offering celebrations or analysis until the full time siren blares and the votes are on the score board, but with those votes predicted to mirror the rules tally, it seems safe to say that the Democrats are on the verge of a major victory. (Futures market Intrade gives it a 97.4 per cent chance.)  If so, congratulations to all involved, particularly the people of the United States of America who will benefit so greatly.

*If you’re confused, catch up on your Tarantino.

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Whip game proper

March 22, 2010

One of the things I helped out with in the Majority Whip’s office while I worked there earlier this year was the production of what is known as the Whip Line. This is one of the simpler parts of the whipping process, and involves letting the other Members of Congress how the Party would like to vote. (The Party does not instruct Members what to do for every single vote.)

The Whip Line for today, unsurprisingly, recommends passage of the Senate’s Health Care reform bill, and of the House’s package of changes. Here’s what it looks like:

  • H. Res. 1203 – Rule providing for consideration of Senate Amendments to H.R. 3590 – the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act AND H.R. 4872 – the Reconciliation Act of 2010 (Rep. Slaughter – Rules):
    […]

    • One hour of debate on the rule.
    • Possible vote on a Democratic Motion ordering the previous question. Members are strongly urged to vote yes.
    • Vote on adoption of the rule. Members are strongly urged to vote yes.
  • Motion to Concur in the Senate Amendments to H.R. 3590 – Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – AND H.R. 4872 – Reconciliation Act of 2010 (Reps. Spratt/Waxman/Levin/George Miller – Budget/Energy & Commerce/Ways & Means/Education & Labor):  Pursuant to H.Res. 1203, debate on the bill will be managed by Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, or his designee.  Consideration of the bill will proceed as follows:
    • Two hours of general debate on the Senate Amendments to H.R. 3950 and on H.R. 4872.
    • Vote on the motion to concur in the Senate Amendments to H.R. 3590. Members are strongly urged to VOTE YES.
    • Debate and vote on Republican motion to recommit H.R. 4872. Members are strongly urged to VOTE NO.
    • Vote on final passage of H.R. 4872. Members are strongly urged to VOTE YES.

It’s an understatement t say that this is something the Democrats want passed. One small sign of that: Whip Lines usually use the language “Members are urged to vote yes.” That single word “strongly” shows this vote is something a bit special.

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We have the facts and we’re voting yes

March 21, 2010

The House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has announced the floor schedule for tomorrow. The House will be naming a post office in Ohio, supporting the goals and ideals of National Women’s History Month and… hey, look at this:

Motion to Concur in the Senate Amendments to H.R. 3590 – Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – and H.R. 4872 – Reconciliation Act of 2010 (Reps. Spratt/Waxman/Levin/George Miller – Budget/Energy and Commerce/Ways and Means/Education and Labor) (Subject to a Rule)

These votes will be taken separately; the House will not use the somewhat controversial deem-and-pass rule that had been proposed earlier this week.

Hoyer’s schedule for the floor advises:

***Members are advised that votes are expected as early as 1:00 p.m.

The health care votes are the first scheduled for the day. Those in and outside of the United States can tune into C-Span‘s Web site to watch the proceedings. Australians, 1 p.m. Washington D.C. time translates to 4 a.m. Sydney time. Get up early. I’ll be live-tweeting at @jbradleyUSSC, as will Erin at @eirinn22.

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Hanging out in Memphis all the while

March 19, 2010

(h/t Spencer Ackerman for the video)

That’s Congressman Steve Cohen of Tennessee’s Ninth District paying tribute on the House floor to Alex Chilton, the singer of Memphis band Big Star. Chilton passed away in New Orleans last night at the age of 59. Cohen does a good job of summarising the history and import of Chilton’s music; he hits all the important notes, including the singer’s first hit as a teenager with the Box Tops, the small but influential nature of the Big Star catalogue, and the 1987 tribute song recorded by a similarly under-appreciated act, the Replacements.

Big Star helped translate the British invasion music of the ’60s into a distinctly American sound, and—as I hear it—a distinctly suburban sound, one that helped establish a counter-narrative to rock’s urban outlook. Prior to Big Star, American underground rock tended toward the gritty downtown chic of bands like the Velvet Underground; Chilton’s music sounded more in tune with culs-de-sac than back alleyways. You can draw a direct line from this ethos through college rock acts of the 1980s like R.E.M., to the slacker style of ’90s alternative bands like Pavement to contemporary indie rock like Death Cab for Cutie and The Shins. Chilton’s band was instrumental in reorienting rock’n’roll back to its American roots after its locus had slipped to the other side of the Atlantic in the ’60s.

After the jump, a tune or two. Read the rest of this entry ?