Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Target DINOS: Finance Committee Corporatist Dems Vote Down Public Option

And then there were three.

The following Democrats on the Finance Committee showed their true colors as members of the corporatist 'Democrats in Name Only' club:

Max 'Hamlet' Baucus
- In keeping with his ethereal rationalizations, Chairman Baucus justified his NO vote stating that his primary responsibility was to report out a bill that would get 60 votes. He also made the 'Rome wasn't built in a day' argument. Fair enough. Baucus is feeling the heat and basically signalled his malleability on this issue as long as he gets political cover. I think he's gone as far as he's willing to go in defending the narrow (and craven) interests of the private insurers that pay his bills. He can read the numbers just like everybody else, including those from his own state.

This debate was more illuminating than all the town halls wrapped in one. In the days ahead, I predict the public option will get a public preference 'bounce' with even more lopsided numbers.

Two numbers jumped out from Senator Rockefeller's impassioned presentation: First, The total taxpayer-funded subsidies to the insurance companies, in the absence of a public option, would be a whopping one-half trillion dollars. That's obscene, and Baucus had no retort except to offer a sputtering halfhearted defense. Second, according to conservative CBO estimates, the public option would save taxpayers more than $50 billion over ten years, and begin to reduce the costs of healthcare.

Senator Rockefeller declared "the public option is on the march!" I loved his use of language here, reminiscent of the great rallying cries for fundamental reform in the history of progressive transformative legislation. Senator Schumer took up Chairman Baucus's challenge. By the time supporters of the public option are done he predicted it would get 60 votes on the floor.

Kent Conrad
- Senator Conrad has his own positive agenda, essentially to revive his pet alternative, the so-called medical co-ops. He made an excellent presentation comparing health outcomes in other countries against poor outcomes in the U.S. Conrad's point was that a private nonprofit model, as exists in Japan, France, Switzerland, Belgium, and other countries, is the best fit for the U.S. He also conceded that Britain, which has a government-run single payer system, had some of the best outcomes. It was a sober, intelligent, nonideological systems comparison, and as such, Senator Conrad deserves a tremendous amount of credit for educating the public. So, with these caveats, his NO vote should be taken in context. Senator Conrad is not an opponent of the public option as much as he is a proponent of his own co-op alternative. If it comes to a choice and his co-op goes down, Sen. Conrad will be one of those 60 votes.

Blanche Lincoln
- MIA.

Senator Lincoln is personable and also one of the most conservative Democrats in the Senate, from the red state of Arkansas. She was basically hiding from the debate and projected negative body language vibes. I get the feeling that she'd really like to vote for a public option, but is constrained. During the lunch break she was seen huddling with Senator Ron Wyden from Oregon. Senator Wyden, a bit of a maverick, has his own nebulous proposal that would shift federal responsibility for healthcare to the states. If Senator Lincoln was angling for a little political cover for her NO vote, she didn't get it. Wyden voted YES for both public option amendments.

The public option is alive and well and support for it will continue to grow.


Lula O said...

I seriously don't need to watch the news because I read this site. You guys are well-informed.
Thanks for making me lazy.

Carlos said...

Thanks Lula ... it's nice to know our wonkishness is appreciated. :)