Well, whaddaya know! The Senate Finance Committee finally voted on Baucus' health care reform bill today. Seems AHIP's whingefest about the bill didn't phase anyone.
I suppose in a way, today's vote was all very exciting as C-SPan goes, what with Olympia Snowe being supreme leader and all. I have to actually give her mad props on her vote, especially since we know she was threatened by GOP leadership if she supported the SFC bill.
The $64,000 question now is, of course, what does this mean going forward?
I, for one, am happy she voted yes. The bill is now out of committee and off to be merged with the HELP committee bill. I don't even want to think about what kind of delay might ensue if the SFC didn't get something out. We have inertia and momentum on our side right now and we'd be idiots to let it slip away.
Sure, her yes vote allows her to participate in the bill going forward, arguing for and against things to be included and left out. But who cares? She is only one Senator. Let her suggest a trigger; maybe that was even part of some secret deal to secure her vote in SFC. But any trigger provision would have to survive the merging process and make it through reconciliation to pose any kind of threat. How likely is that, really?
Rumor has it we have 57 votes for cloture on a strong, trigger-free public option. That sounds like pretty damn strong support and I don't see that evaporating during the merging process. In this light, Harry Reid's quote is fascinating:
But Reid has told colleagues he is reluctant to produce a measure that proves too divisive within his caucus. Regarding a government-funded, or public, insurance option, in particular, he has said he wants proof that a provision would attract broad support within the party before it is included. Otherwise, senators would be free to offer changes as amendments on the Senate floor.
I.e., if most of the Democratic caucus supports something (public option), it will be in the bill. if most of the Democratic caucus opposes something (trigger), it won't. So I don't see that the PO is weakened or the trigger strengthened by Snowe's vote, although I would absolutely love to have confirmation on the 57 votes for cloture.
Personally, I think she gave up her power by voting the bill out of committee today. That was the vote we needed to move the process forward and we got it. She can cry for a trigger all she wants, but unless we need her vote to get cloture on the merged bill, Snowe no longer matters. Therefore, we must see to it that she does not matter.
Call Reid and Schumer et al and tell them they better make good on their threat to strip leadership and campaign support for Dem Senators who vote against cloture.
Tell them if bipartisanship means one Senator gets to hold the entire country hostage, we're better off without it.
Toll Free Numbers for House and Senate:
The next step, since the numbers are already in your phone's redial, is to call your Senators. Give them the same message about bipartisanship and reiterate the need for a trigger-free, nation-wide public option.
And while you have them on the line, tell them they must support Al Franken's Fairness in Health Insurance Act of 2009.
This would mandate that 90% of the $485 billion of federal subsidies paid to private insurers in the Senate Finance bill be spent on actual health care instead of multi-million dollar executive salaries and
bribing people lobbying against health care reform. Let them make a profit off of their private plan customers, not the taxpayers. Mandated medical loss ratios are one of the most powerful tools we have in this fight and even though Franken's is limited in scope, it's a massive step in the right direction.
So, everybody take to the phones! Faxes too - they're delightfully in your face on the receiving end.
Toll Free Numbers for House and Senate:
[update] This comment is great:
[Snowe conceded] that the majority can pass reform without her. In that case, what's not to celebrate?
[update] And the hits just keep comin'...Rockefeller is coming out with hard support for the public option.