Joe Wolverton, II, J.D.
Many Democrats broke with their morning routine last Wednesday and skipped reading the morning paper. The headlines were full of the report of their party’s demise and not even Colombia could produce a coffee strong enough to rouse them from the droopiness of defeat. There wasn’t a paper in the country that didn’t document (in the largest possible font size) the demise of the Democratic Party thanks to the victory of Scott Brown in the special election to fill the seat of the late Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts.
On page 1,980 of the recently passed Senate health care overhaul readers will find the mandates regarding the so-called “Cadillac Tax.” Simply, the Cadillac Tax is a 40 percent excise assessed on all employer-provided health insurance policies that fall into the “luxury” category.
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.