Congress gets another voice on health-care reform
Brian Beutler looks at what "yesterday's overwhelming, historic Republican victory" means for health-care reform:
The NY-23 seat abdicated by Republican John McHugh (who resigned to become Secretary of the Army) went to Democrat Bill Owens -- the first Democrat to hold the seat in over a century. And the CA-10 seat abdicated by Democrat Ellen Tauscher (who resigned to become Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs) went to Democrat John Garamendi.
That creates some simple arithmetic. Yesterday, Democrats had 256 voting members in the House. By week's end, they'll have 258. Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi could afford to lose no more than 38 Democratic votes on a landmark health care reform bill. Next week, after Owens and Garamendi are sworn in, she can lose up to 40. For legislation this historic and far-reaching, she'll need every vote she can get -- and both seem likely to support reform.
Garamendi has a long history in health-care reform. In the early ’90s, he was serving as California's Insurance Commissioner. Working alongside Walter Zelman and, later, Paul Starr, he developed the framework that would later become Clinton's health-care plan -- a triumph of health-care policy, if not politics (you can read a bit about this in Paul Starr's "The Logic of Health Reform" [pdf]).
In other words, Pelosi got more than another health-care vote out of Tuesday's election. She got another health-care wonk. It's probably a bit late for Garamendi to establish himself as a player in this reform fight, but the proposal is going to need guidance and modification after it's passed into law, and it'll be interesting to watch whether he proves a player in that phase.
Photo credit: California Department of Insurance
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