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Let's make a deal

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John Boehner and Eric Cantor have responded to Barack Obama's invitation to sit down and talk health-care reform. They answered in the form of a ransom note. Here are their demands:

1) "Assuming the President is sincere about moving forward on health care in a bipartisan way, does that mean he will agree to start over?"

2) "Does that mean he has taken off the table the idea of relying solely on Democratic votes and jamming through health care reform by way of reconciliation?"

3) "If the President intends to present any kind of legislative proposal at this discussion, will he make it available to members of Congress and the American people at least 72 hours beforehand?"

4) "Will the President include in this discussion congressional Democrats who have opposed the House and Senate health care bills?"

5) "Will the President be inviting officials and lawmakers from the states to participate in this discussion?"

6) "The President has also mentioned his commitment to have 'experts' participate in health care discussions....Will those experts include the actuaries at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), who have determined that the both the House and Senate health care bill raise costs?"

7) "Will the special interest groups that the Obama Administration has cut deals with be included in this televised discussion?"

8) "Will the President require that any and all future health care discussions, including those held on Capitol Hill, [be televised]?"

Just screams "we would like to cooperate with you to reform the American health-care system," doesn't it? But don't take my word for it: You'll really want to read the whole thing. These are not folks who concern themselves with the appearance of good faith. The only thing missing is an obscure riddle that Obama must answer before he can speak to Mitch McConnell.

But I think the administration should release a counter-proposal. They will agree to literally every one of the GOP's demands -- including the ones that don't make any sense -- in return for one, simple promise: The final legislation is guaranteed an up-or-down vote in the House and the Senate. No filibusters. No delays. No procedural tricks. If the GOP wants a clean process, I bet a deal can be struck here.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana.

By Ezra Klein  |  February 9, 2010; 7:05 AM ET
 
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Comments

Ezra,

take away your bias and several of these points are absolutely valid.

If the President truly wants to have a frank discussion should he not want people there that also disagree with his assessment of costs? (CMS). How is that not valid?

If he wants to include legislation should it not be shared with ALL prior to that? Why should Republicans ASK to be ambushed by the President?

Why shouldn't states (that may have a seriously increased burden) at a time when their revenues are far short of what they were in the past have a say? Many of these states face serious budget balacing high wire acts but yet we may put increased pressure on them when they can least afford it.

The rest for the most part are Republican talking points but there are several valid points there that you are giving them little or no credit for.

Posted by: visionbrkr | February 9, 2010 7:42 AM | Report abuse

Well, never expected the republicans to support a publicly watched debate. They proved theirselves to be such irresponsible, incompetent politicians when President Obama faced them, are no doubt running scared.
Our president has reached out a hand and all he gets in return is a fist.
The party of NOthing are on their road to becoming our countries most dangerous domestic terrorists. Out to destroy everything.

Posted by: kathlenec | February 9, 2010 7:44 AM | Report abuse

Some of the points are indeed valid. The overall tone is super-crazy partisan, though. It's good they raise solid points, but they have no intention of working towards a workable piece of legislation. And, frankly, they should just say so.

@Ezra: "The final legislation is guaranteed an up-or-down vote in the House and the Senate. No filibusters. No delays."

That would be the smart thing for the Whitehouse to do, but I'm predicting that they (a) won't do it and (b) the Republicans would weasel out of the agreement, which is exactly why the Whitehouse should do it.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | February 9, 2010 7:47 AM | Report abuse

The GOP has no desire to reform health care.

The GOP does not think the current system is in crisis.

The only concern the GOP has for health care is how much profit insurance companies make off sick people.

If you support the GOP, then you are playing russian roulette with your own health (as well as the financial stability of the USA).

Posted by: Lomillialor | February 9, 2010 7:50 AM | Report abuse

@kathlenec: "They proved theirselves to be such irresponsible, incompetent politicians when President Obama faced them, are no doubt running scared."

They aren't running scared, they're doing a poll-tested run to pick up seats in both houses in November. I'd agree they have no interest in working with the president or the Democrats to craft legislation, good or bad, but the Republicans behavior cannot be explained by their fear of Obama and the Democrat's deft skills as politicians.

"Our president has reached out a hand and all he gets in return is a fist."

Well, irrespective of the likely sincerity of that overture (and it seems more sincere now than it might have six months ago), that fist he's getting back is poll-tested and base approved.

The downside is, if Republicans do win majorities, the Democrats are gonna hand 'em that fist right back. The minority has lots of power and little responsibility, in our system. It just going to take one election to turn the Democrats into the party of NO.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | February 9, 2010 7:53 AM | Report abuse

@Lomillialor:

"The only concern the GOP has for health care is how much profit insurance companies make off sick people."

That, and drinking the fresh blood of doe-eyed orphans. Don't be lettin' 'em off the hook for that.

"If you support the GOP, then you are playing russian roulette with your own health (as well as the financial stability of the USA)."

I haven't seen much sign that supporting the Democrats would be in any way superior. If you support the Democrats, then you are playing Russian roulette just the same, albeit with slightly more hip and polished gun. Certainly, we've had a year of one-party rule under the Dems and I've seen no real improvements on anything. Either they are incompetent, wrong in their prescriptions, or crazy-slow in fixing these crisis that they tell us demand immediate action.

Or, maybe all answers don't come from the government, no matter which party is in charge. I dunno. Just thinkin' out loud.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | February 9, 2010 8:02 AM | Report abuse

After all the grandstanding we've heard from Obama in the last week, at Town Halls and the democrat summit, I think Republicans have every right to question the veracity of Obama's turn to bipartisanship. I'm very leery of Republicans getting attacked by Obama, for purely political reasons. The words Obama has used recently speak of divisiveness, not commaraderie. And if he's not willing to take reconciliation off the table, that is proof of a lack of willingness to really seek cooperation.

Posted by: boosterprez | February 9, 2010 8:27 AM | Report abuse

Kevin,

come on now. Give Lomillialor some credit. I'm sure it would have all been MUCH WORSE had the Democrats not stepped in and paid AIG 100 cents on the dollar. Remember that the stimulus saved MILLIONS of jobs. Think of how poor Goldman Sachs would be right now without the help Paulson and Geithner gave their buddies. If nothing else the Federal government has AGAIN shown itself to be horrible negotiators. Sure let's let them run healthcare into the ground too. Maybe if we're lucky we could end up like Greece or Portugal.

Posted by: visionbrkr | February 9, 2010 8:45 AM | Report abuse

meant to say "paid AIG's creditors 100 cents on the dollar".

Posted by: visionbrkr | February 9, 2010 8:47 AM | Report abuse

Kevin -

Leaving aside matters of tone, Lomilliator is clearly right that the GOP leadership has a different goal than the Dems for health care reform. Look at the plan they touted to the President when he went to the GOP House retreat - it might extend insurance to a few million uninsured. Might. The goals are tort reform and deregulation of the insurance industry by forcing the states to compete for their headquarters.

I'm not aware of anything else offered by GOP leaders that tries to extend health insurance to the uninsured. Ryan's plan certainly doesn't.

I believe their view, like yours, is that not all solutions don't come from the government and it's not a big deal if some people choose not to buy health insurance. Which is another way of saying they don't think reform is necessary - just like Lomilliator said.

Posted by: Sophomore | February 9, 2010 8:52 AM | Report abuse

"No procedural tricks."

LOL. The filibuster is a "procedural trick," but reconciliation is not???

Never gonna happen.

Posted by: whoisjohngaltcom | February 9, 2010 8:54 AM | Report abuse

Those seem to be reasonable demands. In fact most of them (televised negotiations, 72 hours, consult with states, Medicare analysis) should have been done by Democratic leadership in their preceding effort to jam through a bill.

Democrats, with control of the House and Presidency and 60 in the Senate, made a power play and lost. It's going to take more than ridiculing and forced smiles to rebuild the trust with Republicans and the overwhelming amount of the American public that have been turned off by Obama, Pelosi and Reid's unethical efforts.

It seems fairly reasonable for Republicans to demand a fair, respectable meeting less they be Julius Caesar-ed by the Party of Manipulation.

Posted by: cprferry | February 9, 2010 8:54 AM | Report abuse

John Boehner and Eric Cantor should listen to us middle class parents who have gone to the Town Hall meetings to voice our concerns.

Numero Uno is the desire to eliminate the Democrats plan to extend the Medicare ban on Private Contracting.

NO GOVERNMENT LAW SHOULD PUNISH A DOCTOR FOR AGREEING TO PROVIDE A SERVICE NOT COVERED BY THEIR INSURANCE!

The Federal Government's inserting themselves in between a doctor and a patient in this very specific way is an abomination and un-American!

The biggest FORK IN THE ROAD between you federal healthcare radicals and us in the mainstream middle class opposition is the insistence by OBAMA/PELOSI that any doctors participating in their new federal system be banned from offering out-of-pocket services.

Only doctors who choose to make their entire living out of the new federal system can offer out-of-pocket services.

This means a powerfully connected politician like Barack Obama can buy hip surgery for his dying grandmother if he chooses, but all of us middle class schmucks will be dead-out-of-luck.

THAT IS WHY INDEPENDENTS IN LIBERAL MASS SENT SCOTT BROWN TO DC TO STOP OBAMA & PELOSI!

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601070&sid=aGrKbfWkzTqc

Posted by: FastEddieO007 | February 9, 2010 8:58 AM | Report abuse

Your "agree to every point" means agreeing to the first one:

Starting Over

Have you thought that one through, Ezra?

In other words, going back through committees to pass through legislation?

Do you really want to send this back through House committees that have less will now than before, and suffer all the amendment process within those committees?

Do you really want to send this back to the Baucus Caucus?

You think this would be fast tracked by "starting over"?

You're suggesting taking a knee at the two yardline to run out the clock in the first half, in the hopes of taking the second half kick off and driving 80-90 yards to score.

With the *only* form of defense the GOP giving up being the filabuster. That's basically the other side agreeing not to blitz. But they still can bring the four man rush, and other forms of disguising their defense.

I'm not sure you've really thought this through. One hopes you give it more thought before you push this further, and some idiot in the White House buys into it.

John

Posted by: toshiaki | February 9, 2010 9:05 AM | Report abuse

I like your proposal Ezra. OK, perhaps there are some justifiable questions in there, but lets make a deal. I meet the majority of your demands, you agree to meet the majority of mine, and we craft legislation together. Consequently your approval now means a yes vote when it comes time for roll call.

Sounds good to me.

Posted by: trident420 | February 9, 2010 9:07 AM | Report abuse


how does one work with people like eric cantor, mitch mcconnell, boehner. or shelby.. whose intent and purpose is really to destroy any victory or accomplishment for the president.
that is what it has come down to.
their primary desire is to destroy any possible success or accomplishment for the obama administration.
they have wickedness in their hearts.
they appear to have no interest in health care reform.
they are bent on destruction.
if they come to this summit, and i can only imagine what it will take to get them there and how they will be when they are there, i really will say,
"may G-d prepare a table for president obama in the presence of his enemies." it is going to take an enormous amount of light to even be in their presence at that table.
at this point, the success of the summit and the passage of health care reform will have to succeed by divine intervention.
if health care reform gets passed, if anything can get done, it barely seems that these men have the heart or capacity for working for the greater good.
it seems that they have hearts of stone when it comes to the welfare of this country. dont they see how they are hurting and weakening the country, day by day?
i am hoping for divine intervention....it seems that nothing a human being can do, can satisfy them, unless they can destroy everything on the path....killing health care for millions and clearing the way for progress means nothing to them.
i give barack obama all of the credit for trying. what else can be done in the presence of so much wickedness.

Posted by: jkaren | February 9, 2010 9:08 AM | Report abuse

I knew they wouldn't agree to it. There's just no upside for the Republicans.

And on agreeing to the ridiculous requests, I disagree. Doesn't really make sense to agree to anything the Republicans are saying.

Oh, and on folks still asking for "bipartisanship", just so you know, bipartisan does not mean "doing what the minority party tells you to do". The majority bending 95% of the way to meet the minority is not "bipartisanship".

I agree most of the blame lies with Reid and the Senate, but maybe we really do just need an idiot like Bush in there to either help ram things thru or act as a distraction, rather than someone who "understands" the other side and "wants to work with them."

Obama wanting to "get along" means we had the greatest majority in decades, and he didn't pass any one thing we actually wanted to get thru. I mean, really. He hasn't actually passed a major bill that his base truly cared about. Congress did pass some stuff, but none of it was the red meat craved by the folks who elected him.

Health Care? Climate Change? Don't Ask, Don't Tell? Nada...

Obama turned out to be such a letdown.

You can say it's circumstance, whatever, but the US reacts to certainty and leadership. And what's coming out of the White House is neither. We really don't care if the President gets along with everyone. We care that he gets things done.

And not to let him get out of this, most of the blame I admit isn't with Obama. It's with Harry Reid. There's someone I'm happy won't get re-elected next November. I hope the next guy in his leadership position has the cojones to get things done.

I really don't hold out any hope at this point for the Democratic leadership passing any of their flagship bills. They just don't have the balls to act like the party in charge and pass thru their priorities regardless of the opinion of the minority party.

Posted by: JERiv | February 9, 2010 9:13 AM | Report abuse

I'd be very wary of starting over. Unless the House and Senate leadership is very confident that they can speed legislation through the relevant committees in a few months with or without Republican support, my fear is that the Republican leadership will guarantee an up or down vote when it gets to the floor but will slow the bills down in both houses long enough to kill it in committee.

On another note, this "ramming the bill through" is just nonsense. The bills took over a year to work their way through Congress and they're not even done yet. Furthermore, at many points Republicans offered input and amendments to the process. Bi-partisanship was fetishized so that many liberal ideas were never even discussed as possibilities. That Republicans don't like the bills doesn't mean that they were "rammed through". That Republicans voted unanimously against them doesn't mean they were "rammed through". Democrats had (and have) large majorities in both houses of Congress because they won big in two successive elections. There were no secret, midnight votes intended to remove Republicans from the process or sneak the bills through.

Posted by: MosBen | February 9, 2010 9:23 AM | Report abuse

instead of focusing on r this and d that, why aren't we talking about what is in the current bills? the specifics. if we get down to the specifics, then we can determine who's being unreasonable. until then, we're just pretending to know dit about shick.

according to its subhead, this blog is supposed to be about "economic and domestic policy, and lots of it," but i don't see policy anywhere in this post. the actual policy is buried underneath a bunch of red-faced old geezers acting like children in expensive suits... and all of them have great health insurance.

ezra, stop chasing the parties' talking points, cut through the conflict, and help us analyze what's important. what is in the house and senate bills?

Posted by: BertinDC | February 9, 2010 9:24 AM | Report abuse

i know how the republicans have fought to have the ten commandments visible in public places.
well, this prayer needs to be on the powerpoint screen in the summit room, and i am going to be saying it during the summit, if the summit indeed happens.

The wicked plots against the just,
and gnashes at him with his teeth.
the Lord laughs at him.
For He sees that his day is coming.
The wicked have drawn the sword
and have bent their bow,
To cast down the poor and the needy,
To slay those who are of upright conduct.
Their sword shall enter their own heart,
and their bows shall be broken.

psalm 37:12~15
life is fragile. handle with prayer.

Posted by: jkaren | February 9, 2010 9:27 AM | Report abuse

In order to trick someone into something, it's a good idea for there to be 1. good bait or 2. a big surprise.

In Baltimore, it was #2, but I think everyone was surprised.

This time around, the GOP would be fools to walk into a political meat grinder without their having a decent chance of coming away looking good.

As far as inviting academic and industry experts, bring 'em. No government should reorder 16% of its economy without some intellectual discussion, and a modicum of negotiation with the industries that will be affected. Everyone does that, and there's nothing wrong with it.

If the GOP walks away from a high-publicity national discussion on health care, that's their right. But they'd be crazy to do so if the right bait is there, like industry leaders who support campaigns. That's the bait.

I just don't know what surprises lay ahead with this. But who ever does?

Posted by: itstrue | February 9, 2010 9:30 AM | Report abuse

@jkaren; "how does one work with people like eric cantor, mitch mcconnell, boehner. or shelby.. whose intent and purpose is really to destroy any victory or accomplishment for the president"

I think you've called that exactly right. The Republicans are 100% political in their motivations right now. Obama could take the Bush strategy (as when Bush let Democrats write 90% of No Child Left Behind) and, unlike the Dems in that circumstance, the Republicans still wouldn't vote for it. Bipartisanship is essentially an admission of failure, and demonstrates an attempt by Obama to lay the blame for the failure of HRC squarely on the Republicans.

"they have wickedness in their hearts . . . they are bent on destruction."

Well, then, the solution is clearly to have the dwarves and elves join together to craft a magic amulet that will cleanse their evil souls of wickedness.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | February 9, 2010 9:33 AM | Report abuse

"If the GOP wants a clean process, I bet a deal can be struck here."

The GOP does not want a "clean process;" the GOP wants Obama and the Democrats to fail, period. No bill. No change. Business as usual.

Posted by: durangodave | February 9, 2010 9:40 AM | Report abuse

jkaren,

Its amazing your polarization that everything Dems do is just and good and everything that Republicans do is evil. How would you explain those that change parties like Arlen Specter etc? Has he been cleansed after so many years of being evil? Have those congressmen that changed from Dems to Republicans (FOR POLITICAL REASONS) been taken over by the dark forces you speak of? Maybe its possible that not all Dems are God-like and not all Republicans are evil.

Posted by: visionbrkr | February 9, 2010 9:41 AM | Report abuse

Republicans won't participate. They know they have nothing to gain since most of them make fools out of themselves when they go up against the President. They have negotiated in bad faith, just as they did when Hillary tried it. Reconciliation will produce a better system than we have today, that Americans can live with until the next time we get the stomach for a new round. And the Republicans can get involved then. We've watched this slow train for a year. Starting over is a no-starter. It will only delay the inevitable. In 20 years, it will be politically feasible to adopt a single-payer system. Republicans will be reconciled to 'socialized medicine' just as they are reconciled to Social Security and Medicare today. Canada made the same transition: from regulated mandatory insurance to a single-payer system. Because it worked better. Too bad we couldn't save 20 years of experiments by looking at their example. But that's not our style.

Posted by: Roger11 | February 9, 2010 9:42 AM | Report abuse

re: "LOL. The filibuster is a "procedural trick," but reconciliation is not???"

Are you reading impaired or just slow? Maybe all that time living in the gulch has addled you? The whole POINT is that you don't have to use reconciliation if you can get an up or down vote. If we can go to an up or down vote, we can get rid of any and all procedural manuevers, such as reconciliation and filibusters. What's wrong with an up or down vote, it was quite the mantra a few years back for Bush judicial appointees...?

Posted by: Jenn2 | February 9, 2010 9:48 AM | Report abuse

re: The GOP does not want a "clean process"

I'm pretty sure Ezra knows that. I think that's why his proposal is for Obama to call their bluff. It's not a bad idea. I for one would like to hear the phrase "up or down vote" a helluva lot more often. People don't understand, and they need to, that this legislation has passed both houses of Congress and the only thing stopping the reconciling of those bills is 100% procedural.

Posted by: Jenn2 | February 9, 2010 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Jenn2: I tend to agree. Up and down votes with majority rule. I'd like to see an end to the filibuster (especially if they don't go back to doing it Jimmy Stewart style) and a 1/3 vote rule to get bills and nominees out of committee. I would have liked to have seen that for the Bush judicial nominees, and though I don't support HCR, if it had 51 votes, it should have passed. Elections, as they say, have consequences.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | February 9, 2010 9:54 AM | Report abuse

There were no secret, midnight votes intended to remove Republicans from the process or sneak the bills through.

Posted by: MosBen
_________________

If you really believe this, then you haven't been paying attention....

The moment democrats got an "aye" vote out of Sen. Snowe in the Finance committee (and her vote was in anticipation of future bipartisanship), all cooperative, bipartisan efforts were cast aside, and Harry Reid took the Finance and HELP bills into a dark room by himself and crafted the "final bill" aka, the Managers amendment. There was ZERO input from republicans, or even moderate democrats - hence the Cornhusker Kickback, et al.

Posted by: boosterprez | February 9, 2010 9:56 AM | Report abuse

This so called summit with the GOP is a sham. Obama has no intention of listening to a real critique of this awful healthcare bill. He is trying to showboat and lecture to the Republicans like he did a few weeks ago. Apparently, his nutball base enjoyed that made for TV movie. The Democrats still don't get the fact that America does not want this bill and even less this time because the message has already been sent,ie..Scott Brown.

Posted by: davispope | February 9, 2010 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Kevin

I don't have health insurance. Can't get it because of pre-existing conditions (and the fact I am retired).

The Senate bill would indeed make it possible for me to get insurance.

None of the GOP bills, including Ryan's, would help me get insurance.

Also, the Senate bill would, according to the CBO, bend the health cost curve.

When was the last time the GOP ever proposed anything to reduce deficits? Never in recent decades.

Posted by: Lomillialor | February 9, 2010 10:21 AM | Report abuse

kevin willis and visionbrkr
"Well, then, the solution is clearly to have the dwarves and elves join together to craft a magic amulet that will cleanse their evil souls of wickedness."

try to do no harm...try to do good.
people make choices that are with good intent, or not.
when people act from the highest place, not wanting to harm others...to alleviate suffering, their actions are filled with light.
when people act from motivations that are about self, hubris, power or with intent to demean, harm or cast down other people, their actions are not filled with goodness or highest intent.
i believe now, that the leaders in the republican party are bent on seeing the obama administration fail.
that is now the principle that guides their decisions,
and if the people they are here to serve are now harmed in the process, that is acceptable to them.
i see these as putting all of us at risk, and see they are people of low spiritual intelligence to cause so much suffering and debasement to the political process that we are depending on for progress.
if you think that we are not governed by spiritual principles here, and you think that mockery about elves and dwarves is what this about, that is unfortunate.
spiritual principles govern everything, and every decision we make.

Posted by: jkaren | February 9, 2010 10:35 AM | Report abuse

whoisjohnggaultcom: "The filibuster is a "procedural trick," but reconciliation is not???"

Since when is majority rule a "procedural trick"?

Posted by: dasimon | February 9, 2010 10:40 AM | Report abuse

Kevin

I don't have health insurance. Can't get it because of pre-existing conditions (and the fact I am retired).

The Senate bill would indeed make it possible for me to get insurance.


Posted by: Lomillialor | February 9, 2010 10:21 AM | Report abuse


You must be really ticked off at Nancy Pelosi then for not doing what she can to force or even persuade her caucus to sign the Senate bill, no?

Posted by: visionbrkr | February 9, 2010 10:51 AM | Report abuse

jkaren: I have nothing against spiritual principles. I just think characterizing people you agree with as good and holy and those you don't as evil and wicked is a simplistic and shallow way to look at things, and at the world. But I may well be wrong. It's just been my experience that people are complicated and work from complicated motivations.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | February 9, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse

@Lomillialor:

"I don't have health insurance. Can't get it because of pre-existing conditions (and the fact I am retired)."

And I agree that should be addressed. I think such high-value issues should be addressed, preferably with something short of a hyper-amended 2000 page piece of legislation. Portability. Pre-existing conditions. Coverage for the unemployed. I truly believe many Democrats and Republicans could get together and agree on those things, but many more will refuse to.

"The Senate bill would indeed make it possible for me to get insurance."

And your support makes perfect sense. Health insurance is important stuff. Most especially when you have pre-existing conditions.

"None of the GOP bills, including Ryan's, would help me get insurance."

You may have noted, I don't remotely support Ryan's bill. I've never thought any of the GOP bills were a good mix of reforms.

"Also, the Senate bill would, according to the CBO, bend the health cost curve."

Boy, I just don't believe that. Maybe I should. Maybe it's right. But it is counter-intuitive--how can more coverage for more people in more circumstances end up reducing the cost of healthcare?--and suggests that the only way they could ever bend the healthcare cost curve with such legislation is to rob Peter to pay Paul. And not just through tax increases, but in cutting benefits, especially in Medicare and aid to states for Medicaid.

Frankly, I object to the size of the bill. 2000+ pages? Four searate versions (I think)? That's crazy. And the refusal (on the part of the Democrats) to read the text of the bill before voting for cloture. If you're not willing to have the bill read, no matter what side you're on, then you aren't entitled to a vote on it. I understand that may not be how things work in Washington, but perhaps it should be.

"When was the last time the GOP ever proposed anything to reduce deficits? Never in recent decades."

I realize that's a rhetorical question. Reagan proposed balance budgets that grew defense spending while cutting entitlements, but he signed the budgets with the pork thrown back in (as long as kept his defense spending). Since Reagan, I don't believe any Republican president has proposed a balanced budget, or done anything to cut any aspect of government. The '94 congress had some ideas for cutting entitlements, and got a little traction with Welfare Reform, but Bush and subsequent congresses have only expanded the government. TSA, Department of Homeland Security, Medicare Part D, No Child Let Behind, The Patriot Act. I'm well aware that the GOP is not a good steward of conservative principles in government. They certainly don't seem to have much interest in either deficit reduction or the reduction of the size of government.

That being said, I do hope you find a way to get the insurance and/or healthcare you need.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | February 9, 2010 11:00 AM | Report abuse

Who is Ezra Klein, and why should anyone care what a punk with no life or work experience thinks?

Posted by: silencedogoodreturns | February 9, 2010 11:00 AM | Report abuse

silencedogoodreturns: The same can be said of you, too - who the hell cares what you think, either?

Posted by: southernbutnotstupid | February 9, 2010 11:30 AM | Report abuse

"It's just been my experience that people are complicated and work from complicated motivations."
kevin willis

that is certainly true.
but when our complicated motivations inflict harm on others, and we continue along that path of harming other people and doing so consciously, then a "complicated person" manifests infinite consequences from their actions, into the world.
i dont know what you choose to call it....but when people make conscious decisions to harm others by denying them access to decent health care, or to stall the entire political process of a country for their own selfish ends.....or to cast votes on the basis of lining their own pockets....what do you call that?
when do they stop being just "complicated people," when their actions are conscious and with intent to harm?
we are all "complicated."
but i do believe that most functioning people know the difference between right and wrong actions....in spite of ambiguities.
i think that hurting other people intentionally for one's own self-interest is evil...whether it is a greater force that is at work in the world, a perpetual spiritual conflict...i dont know.
but harming other people intentionally feels like evil to me...
and harming a whole country by weakening the entire political process feels very evil....
if politics and everything else is not governed by spiritual principles, how else do we live in the world???
and i dont believe that everyone in the democratic party or republican party is unequivocally characterized in that way...but after a while, individuals can be judged and held responsible for their actions. and you can give right and wrong intentional conduct any name you wish.
it is not hard to identify compassionate, willing intent or willfull, malevolent intent in a person's action. i think we live in a world where there is good and evil.
i dont think it is necessarily something to poke fun at.

Posted by: jkaren | February 9, 2010 11:30 AM | Report abuse

The GOP thinks it has the Democrats by the short ones right now. And they do. The Democrats will do anything to pass health-care reform legislation. How much will they give the GOP to get a bill that can pass?

Posted by: smc91 | February 9, 2010 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Health care: Isn't it interesting that all of those opposed to health care--already have some kind of health care. Isn't it interesting that many of those on medicare oppose health care? Let's ask the 30, 40, or 50 million people (depending which poll you use) how they feel about healthcare???? Let's ask the relatives of the 40 or 50 thousand that die each year because they can't go for help how they feel about healthcare? I still contend that NO ONE in this country should be without. To be the only industrialized nation in the world without health care for all of its citizens is shameful!!!!!

Posted by: pgmichigan | February 9, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

"Since when is majority rule a "procedural trick"?"

Since the Constitution permits each chamber to set its own procedures, the procedures of the Senate include the filibuster, and reconciliation is intended to keep budget bills from being held up. Declaring a healthcare bill budgetary because it can't pass by non-budgetary rules may be "majority rule," but the Senate is not a majority rule body with regard to healthcare legislation, according to its own rules as authorized by the Constitution.

In fact, both the filibuster and reconciliation are provided for under the law. What's interesting is that Ezra hypocritically wants the Senate to use reconciliation while characterizing the filibuster as trickery.

Are your arguments as hypocritical as Ezra's, dasimon?

Posted by: cpurick | February 9, 2010 12:34 PM | Report abuse

pgmichigan,

Present and accounted for. Been to the emergency room twice in 6 years. Settled my debts. Healthy, poor and independent.

Might life be a bit easier with Obama-Reid-Pelosi-Care? I don't know. Maybe. If I came down with a preexisting condition I live in one of the 35 states with high-risk pools. (Although I understand why preexisting conditions was used as an example despite it not in desperate need of addressing in most states. Cancer patients make good photo props and everyone knows someone in their family with a serious preexisting condition.)

Do I think the proposals are what's needed? No. I'd like to see monopolies broken up and state regulations reconciled. I'd like some kind of promise of universal BASIC health care that is affordable, accessible and dignifying, whether by public or private. Preferably through Medicaid.

Do I think the bills are seriously flawed? Yes. Even the idea of cost controls in limiting administration expenses was presented by progressives with little teeth as most meet that now and will continue to shrink as % as costs of care continue to increase. The endless set of regulations will result in fewer fraud investigations and more difficult customer service with your insurer.

Have the Democrats and progressives been deceitful in their efforts? Yes. There was of course the legislative shenanigans. And there was Mr. Klein citing cost benefits with the likely to be removed Medicare reimbursement rate reprieve and misplaced biofuel tax credits. And the many progressives chanting "party of no" at the same time they're saying "we have the numbers. pass it. pass it through political payoffs and reconciliation if need be."

Do I see HCR as a huge effort to win concessions for bureaucrats and campaign contributions for Democrats? Yep.

Posted by: cprferry | February 9, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

"it is not hard to identify compassionate, willing intent or willfull, malevolent intent in a person's action."

Well, that's probably where we disagree. I don't think the folks arguing against healthcare reform are doing it because they hate healthcare, or poor people, or "they got theirs and don't want anybody else to get any". They either (a) think we're better off without it than we will be with it or (b) see themselves being in power as such a good, positive thing for the world that a little failure in healthcare reform isn't a big issue. They won't let the possibly good--that is, healthcare reform--get in the way of the totally wonderful, which is them winning in November. Because, you know, they'll do all sorts of good thing and restore freedom and liberty to the country and get the government off the backs of small business. That sort of thing.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | February 9, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Look at that guy Boehner. He's a poster boy for skin cancer. There's no way we should help someone so irresponsible pay for his health insurance, but we do. He's no better than any of those Hollywood wackos.

If he ever smiled, we'd probably get a good look at what bleaching your teeth can do for you.

Talk about narcissism.

Posted by: st50taw | February 9, 2010 1:29 PM | Report abuse

I agree that Republicans should be wary of a meeting and seek to make it as fair and nonpartisan as possible. Democrats want this outside appearance of bipartisanship to rebuild trust with the American people that hated the Democrats' obstruction of democracy in HCR (payoffs, threats, closed doors).
That's fine, but you read in liberal blogs and editorials (including Obama's campaign manager) that they need to "remind the public how much they don't like Republicans" and the incessant claims of the "party of no". And the recent speeches by Obama have been very partisan.
It's clear that Democrats don't want to rebuild trust with the Republicans they turned away months ago, they want to use them as props for ridicule and abuse.

Posted by: cprferry | February 9, 2010 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Kevin

You seriously object to a bill simply because it is 2000+ pages?

Would you object to such a bill even if it is a good bill?

Would you oppose a good bill because of the font they use, or the weight of the paper it was written on?

Do all bills longer than a certain number of pages inevitably indicate they suck?

I can understand criticizing a bill because, say, it leaves out too many uninsured, or it costs too much, but seriously, you jump right to the 2000+ page issue and think that's a good reason to oppose something, and then expect anyone fighting for their life to take you as anything but an ideologue?

You do realize the GOP raised that issue simply because it was one of their many tools to delay or kill reform? No matter to them that the longest bill in history (page-length-wise) was a GOP bill.

Posted by: Lomillialor | February 9, 2010 1:50 PM | Report abuse

or (b) see themselves being in power as such a good, positive thing for the world that a little failure in healthcare reform isn't a big issue.

you make my point exactly.
"a little failure in healthcare reform..."
this is not a little failure. there are people's lives at stake.
and people's finance's at stake.
i pay out of pocket almost 800 dollars a month to hold on to my insurance policy. did you just hear about anthem-blue cross's rate hike notification in california?
that is not a little failure in health care reform.
and....if their being re-elected is more important than getting health care reform to millions of people...then you prove my point at one's intent being about power and hubris and not right action and doing what will not harm others.
thank you for illustrating what i was try hard to say.

Posted by: jkaren | February 9, 2010 1:57 PM | Report abuse

"i pay out of pocket almost 800 dollars a month to hold on to my insurance policy. did you just hear about anthem-blue cross's rate hike notification in california?"

Unfortunately, neither party is willing to get serious about cutting costs in a way that would affect that bill- although $800 seems cheap to me and with the proposed risk pooling, removal of risk based pricing, and low-penalty mandate, your bill would probably go up as sicker people got onto your plan so that your premiums could cover their expenses. Mine premium looks like it is going to be $1400/month this year, but that's what insurance costs when medical care can get so expensive. If you want access to the $200k year treatments, should you need them, you have buy into an expensive bargain.

I don't think most people get the math around insurance and risk pools, there is a reason that actuarial science is usually reserved for the seriously left brained among us. I tried to explain how healthy people rationally jumping out of an insurance plan that doesn't give them any benefit for being healthy could cause a big rise in prices- people just don't get it.

Most people don't seem to want insurance at all. Once you eliminate considerations of pre-existing conditions, can you still logically call it insurance?

Posted by: staticvars | February 9, 2010 2:07 PM | Report abuse

"'Since when is majority rule a 'procedural trick'?"

"Since the Constitution permits each chamber to set its own procedures, the procedures of the Senate include the filibuster, and reconciliation is intended to keep budget bills from being held up."

Yes, I am aware of what the Constitution allows. And I am aware that the use of the filibuster is in accordance with Senate rules. No one is accusing anyone of rule-breaking. But there is no inherent reason why there should be a filibuster rule at all. And there is no inherent reason why budget bills should be excluded from it.

"the Senate is not a majority rule body with regard to healthcare legislation, according to its own rules as authorized by the Constitution."

I don't know why you put in the qualifier "with regard to healthcare legislation." The Senate is in the end a majority rule body, since that's what it takes to pass a bill. Getting to that vote sometimes involves a supermajority. The cloture rule supposed to be a means of ending debate, not a means of imposing a supermajority requirement for passing every bill except budget bills--as demonstrated by the fact that one can vote for cloture and against the bill.

"Are your arguments as hypocritical as Ezra's, dasimon?"

Neither of us are hypocritical. If you read Ezra, he is in favor of majority rule in all circumstances. To use the filibuster to block a vote on the merits of every single piece of serious legislation is not what the cloture requirement was designed to do, and to use it this way is abusive. If both sides play this game, the nation will become ungovernable because it will be rare that either side will have 60 or more votes.

I didn't like the Bush tax cuts. But my side didn't have the votes, and they passed when Cheney broke the tie. The solution was not to subject budget bills to "regular order" and the potential for a filibuster, but to go out and win more seats. I don't see why that philosophy shouldn't apply to everything else. If people don't like the results, they can vote in someone else to change it. That's democracy, which unfortunately doesn't seem to apply in the Senate these days.

Posted by: dasimon | February 9, 2010 2:11 PM | Report abuse

"if their being re-elected is more important than getting health care reform to millions of people...then you prove my point at one's intent being about power and hubris and not right action and doing what will not harm others.
thank you for illustrating what i was try hard to say."

Your welcome, although my point is that they are not being intentionally malevolent. They may believe, and certainly sound like the believe, that things will be so much better and more awesome for everybody that the ends (them being in power to do awesome stuff that makes the world a better place) justifies the means (torpedoing the Obama agenda at every turn).And many of them clearly believe that HCR won't deliver what it promises, CBO scores notwithstanding.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | February 9, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Kevin

You seriously object to a bill simply because it is 2000+ pages?

Posted by: Lomillialor | February 9, 2010 1:50 PM

****************************

I always thought that complaining about the length of the HCR bills was a really lame criticism. Federal bills are traditionally double-spaced with 2-inch side margins -- probably to make them easier to read, and to leave room to write amendments and comments in the margins. It's a convention with some practical use, but it does make the bills about twice as long. Still, you can whip through them pretty quickly when you cut through the legalese.

Plus, in case anyone hadn't noticed, our current system of providing health care and financing it (whether through insurance, self-funding, government subsidies, Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP, or otherwise) is really complex. It would be tough to amend all the affected laws in a short bill.

Posted by: Policywonky | February 9, 2010 2:52 PM | Report abuse

What has happened that makes you believe the republicans would negotiate HCR in good faith, Ezra? I missed that news item. One of us hasn't been paying attention.

Posted by: Ami_Blue1 | February 9, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse

What's going on here? My sense is that the Republican's worse nightmare is having to debate President Obama - on live television no less. Different interest groups dislike the plan for different reasons. I sincerely believe though - and I might be wrong - that the majority of ordinary Americans who are against the plan are opposed largely due to the effects of the veil of misinformation and deception that Boehner and Cantor, et. al. have draped over it and The President probably will be skillful enough to lift the vail. The GOP got a little taste at the retreat in Baltimore and I'm sure they don't want full scale hand to hand combat with Obama in TV. Their best hope now is to propose so many stupid pre-conditions to the meeting that the Administration backs down.
James Hopkins

Posted by: wbza4sK6c | February 9, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse

"a little failure in healthcare reform..."
this is not a little failure. there are people's lives at stake.

I say that every day about the minimum wage. Yes, some people get paid a little more, but others also go without work as part of the bargain. Those unemployed people are real lives, too.

Posted by: cpurick | February 9, 2010 4:09 PM | Report abuse

I don't think most people get the math around insurance and risk pools, there is a reason that actuarial science is usually reserved for the seriously left brained among us. I tried to explain how healthy people rationally jumping out of an insurance plan that doesn't give them any benefit for being healthy could cause a big rise in prices- people just don't get it.


Posted by: staticvars | February 9, 2010 2:07 PM | Report abuse

You are absolutely right. People don't have a clue not only what doctors, labs, hospitals etc charge they don't have a clue that if they ever have a heart attack that's easily $200-300k and they'll NEVER pay that in premium in their lifetime for themselves alone. Let's do some quick math. Say that jkaren's $800 a month is just for jkaren. Well that's 21-31 years of premium with no other claims incurred or paid before you've paid back what you've taken out of the system. again a commenter the other day realized that healthcare isn't insurance. Insurance is like life insurance. You die once and if you happen to have life insurance it pays out. Healthcare is so highly utilized these days that there is no way that premium can fund it. The only way to eventually make it affordable is to do one of three things.

1-make sure people live healthy lifestyles AND require everyone to have coverage.

2-tell providers they can not make X but X minus 20-30%

3-ration care either by price or benefits done by either a government entity or a private business model.


There seem to be no other options because the money tree seems to be dead.

Posted by: visionbrkr | February 9, 2010 4:13 PM | Report abuse

"If both sides play this game, the nation will become ungovernable because it will be rare that either side will have 60 or more votes."

Government is not your friend. Gridlock is good.

In cases where a truly *common* good, rather than some special interest's "greater" good is the priority, a supermajority is quite achievable. Good law is not zero-sum.

Maybe what you favor is not good law. Maybe you're working for some greater good when you should bee working for the common good. Then you wouldn't need backroom deals to discuss which good is greatest.

Posted by: cpurick | February 9, 2010 4:14 PM | Report abuse

cpurick: "Government is not your friend. Gridlock is good."

Fine. Then let's eliminate public schools, defense, etc. Come on, let's get real here.

"In cases where a truly *common* good, rather than some special interest's 'greater' good is the priority, a supermajority is quite achievable."

Then why are budget bills not subject to a supermajority? Moreover, why should the minority be allowed to set the agenda? Shouldn't elections have consequences? Once again, what is wrong with letting the majority rule and letting the public judge the results? And finally, how much of a supermajority should one need? Why is 60 votes enough? Why not go back to 67 (which it used to be)? After all, if it's truly "good," shouldn't we all be able to agree? Then why not require unaminity?

"Then you wouldn't need backroom deals to discuss which good is greatest."

If a single Republican senator had broken ranks, there wouldn't have been any need for backroom deals such as Ben Nelson's. These deals were the creatures of the supermajority requirement and unified minority opposition. When the minority's success is predicated on the majority's failure, then there is little incentive for cooperation even when the overall legislation is "good." And that's precisely (and obviously) the problem.

Other nations don't function this way, and they seem to do OK. If we maintain this system, government will be unable to handle the major contentious issues of our time. Gridlock is not our friend as these problems continue to fester under the status quo with neither side able to muster a supermajority to deal with them.

Posted by: dasimon | February 9, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

@Lomillialor:

"You seriously object to a bill simply because it is 2000+ pages?"

Yes. The usefulness and efficacy of a bill, as well as the likelihood that the people voting on it have any idea what's in it, is inversely proportional to the length of the bill.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | February 9, 2010 4:28 PM | Report abuse

@cpurick: "I say that every day about the minimum wage."

Every day? That's dedication!

"Yes, some people get paid a little more, but others also go without work as part of the bargain. Those unemployed people are real lives, too."

The people that go without work due to a high(er) minimum wage tend to be teenagers, who can (usually) best afford to be unemployed.

While I'm not an advocate for the minimum wage (I think things would be fine if we didn't have it) I don't think it hurts us much. At least, not at current levels.

The state with the highest minimum wage is Washington State (I think). Which has an unemployment rate of 9.5%. California and Massachusetts have the next highest minimum wages. Mass is 9.1%. In California, unemployment is at 12.1%. Compare that to Mississippi, with a lower minimum wage and 10.3% unemployment. Or Alabama, with a 10.6% rate of unemployment.

You can look at the numbers for yourself. It would seem that minimum wage is a minor factor in unemployment. If it's a factor at all, which I don't think it is. Not only is there no causation, there seems to be no correlation--unemployment rates have no real statistical relationship to minimum wage levels. Would this be different if the minimum wage was $20 an hour? Obviously. But it's not. And In the state with the highest minimum wage, the unemployment rate seems to be at or a little better than the national average.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | February 9, 2010 4:42 PM | Report abuse

More @ Lomillialor:

"Would you object to such a bill even if it is a good bill?"

The fundamental goodness of a bill is inherently inversely proportional to the impenetrability of its language, and the loquacity with which it is constructed. Feel free to say the same about my comments, as well. ;)

"Would you oppose a good bill because of the font they use, or the weight of the paper it was written on?"

Are you kidding? Absolutely I would. If a bill is Gill Sans or Lucida, I can't support that bill. No right thinking American could be expected to support a bill printed out in Helvetica. Maybe your standards regarding typography aren't quite as high as mine.

Regarding the weight of the paper, it should be 80 lb stock. 110 lbs is too much, and much thinner, it becomes rice paper, and I really wonder what you're trying to hide.

"Do all bills longer than a certain number of pages inevitably indicate they suck?"

Almost always. Refer to the inverse proportion rule.

"I can understand criticizing a bill because, say, it leaves out too many uninsured, or it costs too much, but seriously, you jump right to the 2000+ page issue and think that's a good reason to oppose something, and then expect anyone fighting for their life to take you as anything but an ideologue?"

I'm sorry, but objecting to bill length is ideological? I'd be concerned about a 2000 page tax cutting bill. I mean, what would be up with that?

"You do realize the GOP raised that issue simply because it was one of their many tools to delay or kill reform?"

Yes.That's not the point. The point is that anyone who uses Times New Roman instead of classic Times is a communist. It's as good as a signed confession.

"No matter to them that the longest bill in history (page-length-wise) was a GOP bill."

Which bill was that? I bet it was a stinker. I'm non-partisan in my objection to bill length. Brevity is the soul of wit, after all. And verbosity is the first refuge of a scoundrel.

Did a little research and all I could come up with was 1999's SAFE-TEA act, from Alaska's Republican Congressman Don Young. The name alone stood for "Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users 2005". I don't know about you, but I'm already dubious that that was good legislation. And I haven't gotten past the title.

Still, that was actually 68 words shorter than HR3962.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | February 9, 2010 4:57 PM | Report abuse

I wonder how many of the Senate Democrats would favor an up or down vote. LOOOOOL. Might take away their ability to blame their failure to pass the legislation on Republican obstructionism.

Posted by: bgmma50 | February 9, 2010 5:02 PM | Report abuse

"Then let's eliminate public schools,

We should eliminate public schools. Every family I know with kids in public schools would rather have them in a private school if they could. EVerybody who pays taxes should have their kids in private schools, and then whatever's leftover can be used to pay for "welfare schools," like government housing, for the poor. Healthcare? Same thing. When you're in a government program, you'll be envying the wealthy people still getting private care.


"... defense,"

Common good. If a supermajority favors war, then maybe we should have one.


"In cases where a truly *common* good, rather than some special interest's 'greater' good is the priority, a supermajority is quite achievable."
Then why are budget bills not subject to a supermajority? Moreover, why should the minority be allowed to set the agenda? Shouldn't elections have consequences? Once again, what is wrong with letting the majority rule and letting the public judge the results? And finally, how much of a supermajority should one need? Why is 60 votes enough? Why not go back to 67 (which it used to be)? After all, if it's truly "good," shouldn't we all be able to agree? Then why not require unaminity?

Ever heard of Jefferson's description of the Senate as a "cooling saucer"? Plus, balance this "majority rule" nonsense against the fact that Senators themselves are not proportionally selected, and by original intent they weren't even elected by popular vote. It is what it is, and whatever that is, it's not majority rule. That's something only recently introduced, and as far as I can tell at best it's a recipe for mediocrity.


"Then you wouldn't need backroom deals to discuss which good is greatest."
"If a single Republican senator had broken ranks, there wouldn't have been any need for backroom deals such as Ben Nelson's."

The bottom line is that this was an ideological pursuit. Libs didn't want bipartisanship, and they didn't want a common good solution to lower costs. They wanted the liberal holy grail of universal healthcare. Compromises like the public option and the mandate were NOT attempts to lure Republican support for a bill that lowered costs; they were attempts to corral all Democrats for whatever universal healthcare proposal might muster 60 votes.


"When the minority's success is predicated on the majority's failure, then there is little incentive for cooperation even when the overall legislation is "good.""

Not true. If the bill was any good, Republicans would have no problem taking credit for helping it pass. But it's an ideological bill to bring about an ideological reform, and it only even got 60 votes after promising a half dozen Democrats that their states wouldn't have to pay full price to participate. If the bill was so good, then why was so much support predicated on being excluded from it???

Posted by: cpurick | February 9, 2010 6:18 PM | Report abuse

"While I'm not an advocate for the minimum wage (I think things would be fine if we didn't have it) I don't think it hurts us much. At least, not at current levels."

When you say "much," you do realize, don't you, that even one person without a job is "much" unemployed, right?

Posted by: cpurick | February 9, 2010 6:20 PM | Report abuse

"If the President intends to present any kind of legislative proposal at this discussion, will he make it available to members of Congress and the American people at least 72 hours beforehand?"

it's a 2,000+ page bill and it's been available for months. a lot of stuff in there he might like. what a boehner...

Posted by: megankeenan | February 9, 2010 7:41 PM | Report abuse

Kevin_Willis: "The usefulness and efficacy of a bill, as well as the likelihood that the people voting on it have any idea what's in it, is inversely proportional to the length of the bill."

Fine. Then here's a short bill: "From now on, all American citizens shall be eligible for Medicare." See how many Republican votes you can line up for that one.

Obviously, length is not the crucial criterion.

Posted by: dasimon | February 10, 2010 12:19 AM | Report abuse

cpurick: "Every family I know with kids in public schools would rather have them in a private school if they could."

Then you don't know a lot of people. There are many fine public schools in this country. There are people in Scarsdale and Palo Alto who could easily afford to send their kids to private schools and don't do so. Most people are pretty happy with their public schools; problems are mostly with poorer communities and inner city populations. And if there is a way to provide education for people who can't pay for it themselves without some kind of massive government intervention (at least in the form of "redistribution of wealth" vouchers), no one has come up with one.

"Ever heard of Jefferson's description of the Senate as a 'cooling saucer'?"

Yes. But he didn't describe it as a frozen meat locker. Cloture is meant to allow for full deliberation, not to kill every major piece of legislation on the merits.

"Plus, balance this 'majority rule' nonsense against the fact that Senators themselves are not proportionally selected, and by original intent they weren't even elected by popular vote."

Yes, the Senate by creation was already not democratic. So the solution is to make it even more undemocratic? How much antidemocratic structure is enough? Why not go back to having state legislatures select senators? How will Republicans enact their agenda if they don't have 60 votes? And why not require an even higher threshold? Isn't more "cooling" better? Again, why not then go all the way to require unaminity? And again, why not apply it to budget bills? After all, if it's a really "good" budget, shouldn't it be easy to get bipartisan agreement? (Why no response to these questions the first time around?)

"The bottom line is that this was an ideological pursuit. Libs didn't want bipartisanship, and they didn't want a common good solution to lower costs."

First, the Senate bill is very modest. It's more moderate than what Clinton proposed. It's more moderate than what Nixon proposed. So I think it's a real stretch to describe it as "ideological." http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F0DEED7123BF933A15752C0A9669D8B63

As for costs, at least there are some pilot programs to see what might actually work. It seems to be the Republicans who are fighting any serious spending reductions.

Posted by: dasimon | February 10, 2010 12:55 AM | Report abuse

cpurick (continued): "If the bill was any good, Republicans would have no problem taking credit for helping it pass."

Absolutely not true. As Ezra has pointed out, Republican voting patters are much better explained by politics than by ideology. Zero Republican votes for pay-go. Those who said they supported a deficit commission voted against the actual proposal. These votes can be best rationalized as a "make the majority fail" position as to a "vote for what we really believe in" position. So just because it's a "good" bill doesn't mean that the opposition will vote for it when passage is simply not to their political advantage.

"If the bill was so good, then why was so much support predicated on being excluded from it???"

Because including many items still would not have gotten any more votes. If the Democrats had put in tort reform, does anyone seriously believe that any Republican would have voted for the final bill? If not, then where is the incentive to put it in the bill?

Finally, the non-hypocrisy of the views of Ezra and myself remain unchallenged. By the way, if you read the original post, Ezra wrote: "No filibusters. No delays. No procedural tricks." That doesn't mean that he considers a filibuster a procedural trick, only that legislation should eventually be given an up or down vote.

Posted by: dasimon | February 10, 2010 12:56 AM | Report abuse

"Republican voting patters are much better explained by politics than by ideology. Zero Republican votes for pay-go. Those who said they supported a deficit commission voted against the actual proposal."

Under liberal control, pay-go and the deficit commission are both pathways to higher taxes. Ideologically, they're both automatic no votes.

"If the bill was so good, then why was so much support predicated on being excluded from it???"
Because including many items still would not have gotten any more votes. If the Democrats had put in tort reform, does anyone seriously believe that any Republican would have voted for the final bill? If not, then where is the incentive to put it in the bill?

Maybe you misunderstand the original question. Ben Nelson didn't want farm subsidies. Mary Landrieu didn't want new levees. Florida didn't want highway dollars. The unions didn't demand a higher minimum wage. What everybody wanted, in exchange for throwing their support behind this "great" bill, was to be excluded from it in one way or another. If the bill is so great, then why is everyone trying to get out of it as a precondition to their support???

Finally, the non-hypocrisy of the views of Ezra and myself remain unchallenged. By the way, if you read the original post, Ezra wrote: "No filibusters. No delays. No procedural tricks."

Ezra supports reconciliation. It's hypocrisy if he claims that's any less of a "procedural trick" than the filibuster. To be fair, in the OP Ezra suggests abandoning both reconciliation and the filibuster. But I'm not calling him on this post, I'm calling him on his repeated calls for reconciliation which, it turns out, is just another "trick."

Posted by: cpurick | February 10, 2010 8:16 AM | Report abuse

cpurick: "Under liberal control, pay-go and the deficit commission are both pathways to higher taxes. Ideologically, they're both automatic no votes."

First, it's not ideology to suggest that any reasonable path to fiscal responsibility will likely require higher taxes; it's ideological to be against higher taxes in every single circumstance, even when it would be the fiscally responsible thing to do.

And on the facts, pay-go is not liberal or conservative; it says any expenditures have to be revenue neutral, paid for by either more revenue or cuts elsewhere (shouldn't Republicans embrace the latter?). Moreover, it's not at all clear that the proposed commission was going to be under "liberal control," and it would not require higher taxes since anyone could simply vote "no" on any proposal to raise them. So pay-go and the commission should not be automatic "no" votes except if one is committed to bringing down the opposition--which is what we have today.

Just read Ezra's comments a few earlier from this one, titled "The Senate's problem is not disagreement. It's elections." He writes: "Bipartisanship isn't impossible because people disagree on the finer points of American policy, though many of them certainly do. It's impossible because the parties are locked in a zero-sum struggle for control, and you don't gain an advantage if you give the other side a major accomplishment and then tell the American people they really did a good job reaching out to your and your colleagues....As I've said before, it is very near to impossible to build out an ideological model explaining why Republicans who voted for the deficit-financed Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit would vote against the deficit-neutral health-care reform bill. But it's very easy to build out a model explaining why Republicans would vote for a bill that would help them if it passed and against a bill that would hurt them if it failed. Same goes for Democrats. Good-faith disagreement is not the explanation that best fits the data." I find that argument compelling, and I think it's naive to claim that if only the Democrats had moderated to a "good" bill, some Republicans would have agreed to it. That's just not the political dynamic that we have right now.

Posted by: dasimon | February 10, 2010 9:40 AM | Report abuse

cpurick (continued): "If the bill is so great, then why is everyone trying to get out of it as a precondition to their support?"

Sorry, but that "get out of it" is still obscure. Seems like all the major provisions would be intact for everyone.

"Ezra supports reconciliation. It's hypocrisy if he claims that's any less of a "procedural trick" than the filibuster.."

Ezra said part of the "deal" in agreeing to Republican demands should be a straight up or down vote on the result. It's not a reference to "reconciliation." I don't see what his hypocritical about that.

By the way, on "defense," you missed my point. You claimed maybe a supermajority would be a good idea to declare war. I was referring to having government run a standing army in the first place. After all, if "government is not your friend" as you claim, why would we want government running something like that?

Finally, there has been no response to my series of questions regarding how much antidemocracy is enough, or why regular order shouldn't apply to budget bills as well as everything else. I've asked them twice. I won't repeat them again.

Posted by: dasimon | February 10, 2010 9:41 AM | Report abuse

"Fine. Then here's a short bill: "From now on, all American citizens shall be eligible for Medicare." See how many Republican votes you can line up for that one.
Obviously, length is not the crucial criterion.
Posted by: dasimon"


The number of votes, both Republican and Democratic, you can line up for that one varies directly in proportion to the percentage of the public you can persuade that it's a good idea.

Posted by: bgmma50 | February 10, 2010 10:14 AM | Report abuse

"The number of votes, both Republican and Democratic, you can line up for that one varies directly in proportion to the percentage of the public you can persuade that it's a good idea."

That may be true, but that wasn't the point. It was a response to the claim that "The usefulness and efficacy of a bill, as well as the likelihood that the people voting on it have any idea what's in it, is inversely proportional to the length of the bill."

I may think Medicare For All is a good idea, or that it's not a good idea. But it's completely unrelated to the fact that it's a one-sentence bill (though if you incorporate all the Medicare legislation, it would probably be a very long bill). Long bills can be terrible or good, as can short bills. So all this complaining about how the health care bill is too long is really pretty silly.

Posted by: dasimon | February 10, 2010 4:59 PM | Report abuse

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