Joe Wolverton, II, J.D.
Apropos of the unusual Christmas Eve vote, the red “nay” lights and the green “aye” lights on the Senate floor flashed in the expected pattern signaling passage of the senate’s version of a healthcare bill. Just prior to the roll call, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) turned and faced his colleagues across the aisle and poked the air with his forefinger declaring that “this fight is not over. It is far from over.” With that, he took his seat and mutely witnessed the inevitable passage of the healthcare bill by the Senate. Despite being undeniably unpopular among voters, 60 senators stood ceremoniously and added their voice to the majority agreeing to disregard the expressed will of the electorate and shepherd the historic overhaul of health care one step closer to enshrinement as the law of the land.
“Something’s going to have to give,” are the words used by Congressman Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) in describing the shotgun wedding about to take place between the Senate healthcare bill and its companion measure adopted by the House on November 7. Stupak gained fame for penning the provision of the House bill prohibiting the funding of abortion in any policy financed by federal subsidy.
Everyday the headlines in the nation’s newspapers report the same salient and unsurprising fact: Healthcare “reform” is unpopular to historic levels and yet President Obama and his legislative factotums still insist on passing it at all costs. Day after day, the sharp edges are sanded down so the bill can roll through the Senate and into the Oval Office by Christmas.
In what has been described as a last-ditch effort to save the healthcare overhaul that is first on his Christmas wish list, President Barack Obama has summoned all 60 members of the Senate’s Democratic caucus to the White House on Tuesday for an 11th-hour pep talk in anticipation of an impending vote on the Senate’s version of a bill that would alter the healthcare industry by changing Medicare, offering long-term care to retirees and the disabled, and creating a government-subsidized and administered panoply of health insurance policies.
On November 7, at the end of a 12-hour debate, the House of Representatives passed the implausibly named “Affordable Healthcare for America Act.” A similarly revolutionary measure was introduced days later in the Senate and, thanks to a shameless display of haranguing and multi-million-dollar handouts, was put onto the calendar for deliberation by the entire membership.
Ending a week of rancorous debate, hollow threats, and showdowns that seemed all but blocked and scripted, the Senate voted Thursday on the first four of nearly a score of amendments to the healthcare bill. Partisan shadow boxing over topics as polarizing as abortion and Medicare culminated in a series of roll calls that had few surprises, and more than anything testified to the antipodean antipathy permeating both houses of Congress.
In the over 2,000 pages of the Senate’s “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” there are bound to be a few perplexing provisions. While not all of these elements will make it in to the final bill, examining some of the less mundane aspects of the legislation that may become the law of the land is worthwhile.
The not-a-vote-to-spare super majority that invoked cloture in the healthcare legislation in the Senate, thus placing deliberation of the bill on the top of the legislative agenda, reveals the pressing and unavoidable need for compromise among Democrats, some of whom are claiming to still be undecided as to whether or not they will support the bill as currently written.
In front of a standing-room-only spectator gallery, the Senate voted 60-39 Saturday night to invoke cloture and limit floor debate on the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2009,” the Senate’s companion measure to similar healthcare reform legislation passed earlier in the month by the House of Representatives. Invoking cloture requires a three-fifths majority (60 votes) of the full Senate. Though not a vote on the legislation itself, the procedural vote is significant since it prevents opponents from trying to filibuster the bill to death.
It seems Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is really getting into the spirit of the holiday season. Not only has he promised President Obama that he would deliver a shiny new healthcare package to the President’s desk by Christmas, but since revealing the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” the Senate’s version of healthcare reform, it is apparent that he likes playing Santa Claus so much he has stuffed Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.) stocking with $100 million.