The next two days promise to be tense, exciting, and hopefully in the end, triumphant. The reconciliation bill was released earlier in the week and it got a big boost from the CBO. Perhaps the biggest boon to the bill’s chances of passing tomorrow is that it reduces the deficit more than the House and Senate bills would have in the first 10 years, and it further reduces the deficit by $1.2 trillion over the subsequent 10 year period. In my view, deficit hawks will be hard-pressed to argue that this bill is not fiscally responsible.
Here is a handy page that compares the three bills so you can see some of the more important provisions. Spoiler alert: There is no public option and illegal immigrants are barred from participating in the exchanges with their own money. The latter is of great concern to the Hispanic Caucus and rightly so. Two very unfortunate provisions that I think will one day be corrected, but for now, I think liberals and progressives should get behind this bill.
Politically speaking, not passing the bill would be disastrous for Democrats and the President. But more importantly, the bill does do some very good things (insuring over 30 million people and prohibiting preexisting conditions as a bar to insurance, to name a couple) and I do think it would be a first step to a public option or single-payer system down the road.
Returning to the political merits, Republicans know that it would be much more damaging to them if this bill passes. Should it not be obvious given all their resistance throughout this process? Sure, they may gain some seats in Congress in November, but I would much rather campaign this fall defending voting for a bill that expands coverage, reduces costs, reduces the deficit, and creates an exchange for people to shop for insurance across state lines. The Republicans would have to campaign against the bill and all it does and that will be a hard sell if the Democrats do a good job of telling the public what they will get with the bill and what the Republicans want to take away. Basically, it MAY be good for the GOP in the short-term, but long-term their actions in this process and their votes against the bill will be very damaging.
I think Republicans know this and that is why they are doing everything they can to scare the wavering Democrats into voting against the bill manana. Any Democrat thinking of voting against the bill should not seriously think that they will not be tied to Obama, or the bill if it passes, in November and be in serious jeopardy of losing their seat anyway. If anything, they will be in greater danger because they will likely not have the support of Democrats in their districts and probably are not going to win any converts from the right either. Double whammy! This is a huge test for the Democrats, who collectively have shown very little spine throughout this process.
Let us hope that they stand up for something they have believed in for a generation and put the welfare of the American people above their political careers. A vote for this bill, if it passes, would be historic and could actually cement the legacies of those in Congress. These narcissts should jump at that opportunity! Ok, maybe I am being a bit harsh, but seriously, pass the damn bill!
UPDATE: I neglected to mention what may keep the bill from passing tomorrow: The abortion “debate”. Frankly, it is a non-issue to me in that Stupak’s opposition is unnecessary because the bill does not allow for federal funds to be used for abortion services. In addition, I have read a few studies this week that show that expanding coverage to more women and making that coverage more secure, as is the case in other industrialized nations with universal coverage or something close to it, has led to reduced abortions in those nations. In fact, those nations have lower abortion rates than we do.
But if studies in other countries are not good enough for you, then there is this article about a study done in Massachussetts that shows a decrease in abortion services since they passed health care reform similar to what is on the table in Washington now. If these people are serious about wanting to reduce the number of abortions in this country, then they should take a hard look at this study because making health care more accessible and affordable for women might do just that.
UPDATE #2: Getting closer. I meant to post this graph from the Washington Post earlier, which shows what votes are in play and just as interesting, it shows contributions from the health care industry and the percentage of uninsured constituents for each legislator. What struck me was the large number of legislators with 15% or more of their constituents being uninsured and who are still voting against the bill. I wish more than five people read this blog so they could see the graph; maybe more people would support the bill, though it should be said that support has been increasing over the last few weeks. Anyway, why doesn’t the MSM report information like that found on the graph? Infuriating but not surprising.
The NYT is keeping track of the votes, too.