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The Senate: an unprincipled body

Well, tomorrow is the big day. The Senate vote on health-care reform is set for 8 a.m. And it will have all the suspense of waiting for Santa to slink down the chimney.

Getting to this point was u-gly. People we thought were standing on principle apparently liked standing on bags of cash. I'm not a fan of the word "bribe" being thrown around to describe the $100 million offerd to Nebraska to get the vote of Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.). But Michael Gerson takes issue with the Nelson cave-in that has made me rethink my aversion to the word.

I can respect those who are pro-life out of conviction and those who are pro-choice out of conviction. It is more difficult to respect politicians willing to use their deepest beliefs -- and the deepest beliefs of others -- as bargaining chips.

Gerson is right. Nelson made it seem like his opposition to abortion was made of bedrock. Instead, it appears it was as squishy as quicksand.

Mika Brzezinski brought up the Gerson piece as part of "Mika's must-read op-eds" on "Morning Joe." Guest Tina Brown, of The Daily Beast, said she wanted to know what other senators got. The Post's Dana Milbank had a list of them yesterday.

Interestingly, the conversation quickly moved to Republican obstruction in the Senate negotiations, particularly the intransigence of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Brown brought up his tough reelection fight as a reason why he has abandoned his maverick moniker. Perhaps she was channeling Maureen Dowd, who wrote today, "Once a constructive independent, John McCain now is such a predictable obstructionist that he’s in the just-say-no vanguard with the same conservatives who used to despise him."

But just as Gerson questions the deeply held principles of Nelson, Dowd questions whether McCain stands for anything anymore. Her column is a lament of the transformation of the old McCain, who considered the press his constituents in 2000, into the new McCain, who kicked her off his campaign plane in 2008. "With President Obama, McCain's objections seem motivated more by vendetta than principle," Dowd writes. And she notes, "Even some of McCain's former aides are disturbed by the 73-year-old's hostile, vindictive, sarcastic persona."

Hostile? Vindictive? Sarcastic? Sounds like Sarah Palin had more influence on McCain than we thought.

By Jonathan Capehart  | December 23, 2009; 8:40 AM ET
Categories:  Capehart  | Tags:  Jonathan Capehart  
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Comments

The process of passing the Healthcare Bill goes beyond being ugly. We the people have been held hostage by the likes of Lieberman and Nelson. I am told that the Democratic Party is a coalition of several philosophies. While there is strength in unity people with diverse opinions seldom agree unanimously. The unfortunate thing is that politicians have agreed that nastiness is a fundamental part of politics. We need a Party of principled people who are prepared to work for the benefit of the American people rather than for self aggrandizement. The process of change is lengthy and sometimes painful but the earlier a start is made the earlier the goal will be accomplished. We need an American Liberal Party that declares itself as being Liberal so that those who oppose and support Liberalism understand exactly what the Party stands for and against. Let conservatives join another Party and centrists dangle wherever they want to be. If you are luke warm you may be spewed out.

Posted by: fasm7700 | December 23, 2009 12:10 PM | Report abuse

isn't it strange, Obama, Nancy and Harry promised and open and transparent administration with honesty and interigity in office. Sure changed their story as soon as they took office. So far the corruption and closed door meeting with political conies has excdeded any thing Bush or even Clinton ever did. The corruption and underhanded backroom chicago strong arm tactics are astounding. I wonder how many actual violation of the Constution have been comitted that we dont know about? I have to admit I never though that the corruption would be this blatant so early in this administartion.

Posted by: jmsmaxwell | December 23, 2009 1:58 PM | Report abuse

November 2, 2010 cannot come soon enough. Here's my bi-partisan and early vote for throwing all of the bums out.

If the Democrat's spendthrift spending and onerous new tax hikes manage to damage the dollar in the next eleven months, there is going to be more than enough misery to go around for everyone by election day.

Posted by: pgould1 | December 23, 2009 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Some reason: I'm not a Nelson fan, but let's remember that he didn't bargain for money for himself. He bargained for money to cover the costs of providing healthcare to the poorest of Nebraskans. Which is also a pro-life position; more so, since presumably there are many more poor & uninsured Nebraskans that will benefit from this deal than potential abortions over any given time period. I don't see any ethical inconsistency on his part; simply making a tough choice. Leave the guy alone.

Posted by: clampson | December 23, 2009 2:59 PM | Report abuse

Seems to me McCain is taking a lot more principled stand than all the sleezoid Dems who are cutting deals to get pork for themselves in exchange for voting for a bill that no one -- including themselves -- fully understands or is willing to honestly pay for. None of these senators are really going to vote for the Medicare cuts they've been claiming they'll make to pay for this bill. These guys are principled? Hah!

Posted by: dakotadoug83 | December 23, 2009 3:16 PM | Report abuse

The Republic Party members, including McCain, are just plain ole bad sports, bad losers.

They lost the election, their just desserts for blindly supporting the likes of Bush/Cheney, and just can't cope with not having a President of their ilk in the Oval Office.

They have held the Presidency for all but 12 years since 1968 and the Congress for most of the last 15 years and want to blame the Democrats for the mess we are in!! And, many people seem to buy it!!! Particularly south of the Mason-Dixon!!!

The only culpability the Democrats have is being stupid enough to do things for the good of the nation when a Republic Party member is President. The Republic Party members never stoop so low when the situation is reversed. It's all about Party, right or wrong, to them.

Posted by: edismae | December 23, 2009 3:59 PM | Report abuse

The Democratic leadership can't distinguish the difference between compromise and corruption. Harry Reid keeps calling his payoffs to Nelson et al, "compromise" when they are back room corruption. Nelson's state received a payoff for his vote. Lieberman received a change in the policy for his vote-a true compromise and a much more principled stance. Its a shame there wasn't more real compromise for such important legislation.

Posted by: robbeking | December 23, 2009 3:59 PM | Report abuse

WELL! WE KNOW THAT OUR CONGRESS AND THE WHITE HOUSE IS CORRUPTED BY MONEY. IT IS NOT GOING TO CHANGE UNLESS OUR EQUALLY CORRUPT CORPORATE MEDIA, TAKE THIS SERIOUSLY. I DOUBT IT BECAUSE THE VERY MONEY THAT CORRUPT POLITICIANS TRICKLE DOWN TO THE CORPORATE MEDIA IN FORM OF POLITICAL ADS.

Posted by: bluelagoon21 | December 23, 2009 6:25 PM | Report abuse

Some reason: I'm not a Nelson fan, but let's remember that he didn't bargain for money for himself. He bargained for money to cover the costs of providing healthcare to the poorest of Nebraskans. Which is also a pro-life position; more so, since presumably there are many more poor & uninsured Nebraskans that will benefit from this deal than potential abortions over any given time period. I don't see any ethical inconsistency on his part; simply making a tough choice. Leave the guy alone.

Posted by: clampson | December 23, 2009 2:59 PM |
&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

WHY?

Why are the folks in Nebraska any better than the folks in Iowa or Idaho, or Georgia etc?????

If the provision is good enough to be included in this sausage, then it should be good enough for the whole country.

Posted by: frankn1 | December 23, 2009 7:01 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, if there were a single republican not owned by the insurance companies they could have actually helped their constituents by voting for health care reform and then no one would have to worry about Nebraska.

Posted by: orange3 | December 23, 2009 7:03 PM | Report abuse

And when the objections of the moderate Republicans have been met and they still vote "no", what will you call that?

Yes, politics are ugly, but no one plays harder and dirtier than the Far Right. Fair enough, but please don't be hypocritical when the Dems do a little of their own. Chicago has no lock on this kind of horse-trading.

Posted by: tmefoy | December 23, 2009 7:42 PM | Report abuse

I've grown up in Arizona and we are extremely proud of our senator, Mr. McCain. He has always stood for us here in the grand canyon state. for anyone to say he is losing his title as maverick is preposterous. I for one am proud of the fact that my Senator has never once put an earmark on any bill. He votes the way it was intended, on what the principle of the bill is. Yes or no, you know that Senator McCain is giving you an accurate representation of how he feels about the legislation. No special little kickback for him or his constituents is ever a factor. So for Ms. Dowd to attack one of the most honorable men ever to hold the title Senator is low and shows her true character. Next time he wants to kick off his plane I hope I'm there so I can do the honor of tossing her out myself!

Posted by: jmder | December 24, 2009 3:32 PM | Report abuse

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