Weekly Pulse: Obama Signs Health Reform Bill, Backlash Begins

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Yesterday, President Obama signed health care reform into law. As Mike Lillis explains in the Washington Independent, the bill now proceeds to the Senate for reconciliation. The whole process could be complete by the end of the week. Republicans and their allies have already moved to challenge reform in court.

Legal challenges

The fight is far from over, however. Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly notes that Republicans have already filed papers to challenge health care reform in court. The Justice Department has pledged to vigorously defend health care reform, according to Zach Roth of TPM Muckraker.

The legal arguments against health care reform center around the constitutionality of an individual mandate, i.e., the requirement that everyone must carry health insurance. This argument is specious. The bill characterizes the mandatory payments as a tax, and imposes a fine for those who don’t pay their insurance tax. There is no question that Congress has the authority to levy taxes in support of the general welfare and providing health insurance to the people easily meets that legal criterion.

Dave Weigel of the Washington Independent reviews some of the other formidable legal barriers to challenging health care reform in court. But take heart, teabaggers! Birther-dentist-lawyer Orly Taitz is on the case.

Violent outbursts from reform opponents

Some anti-reform activists have resorted to intimidation.  Five Democratic offices were vandalized in the days surrounding the House vote, as Justin Elliott reports for TPM Muckraker. Someone hurled a brick through the window of the Niagara office of Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), the chair of the powerful House Rules Committee.

Slaughter is notorious on the right for drawing up the controversial “deem and pass” strategy for moving the bill forward. Her plan was never put into action, but she has become a target anyway. Another Democratic office in Slaughter’s district was damaged by a brick bearing a quote from conservative icon Barry Goldwater: “Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice.”

Elliott notes that a conservative blogger in Alabama is doing his best to incite similar attacks, though it’s not clear whether he instigated any of the original five:

…Blogger Mike Vanderboegh has been tracking the breaking of windows at Dem offices after issuing a call Friday: “To all modern Sons of Liberty: THIS is your time. Break their windows. Break them NOW.

Reproductive rights take a hit

Anti-abortion extremist Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) failed to get his ultra-restrictive abortion language inserted into the health care bill, but the final bill does impede health insurance coverage for abortion.

For example, those who choose abortion coverage will have to write two checks: One for their regular premium and one for a dollar to go into a separate abortion coverage fund. Many analysts fear that the extra hassles will discourage private insurers from covering abortion at all.  Pro-choice activists were in a weaker negotiating position because, unlike Stupak and his allies, they weren’t prepared to kill health reform if their demands weren’t met.

The greater good?

Now that health care reform is safely signed into law, the pro-choice movement is stepping back and asking itself some tough questions.

In The Nation, Katha Pollitt argues that the pro-choice movement deserves to be rewarded for sacrificing its own agenda for the greater good. She suggests that the Democrats could reward the reproductive rights movement by fully funding the Violence Against Women Act, addressing maternal mortality and other policy changes to advance women’s health and freedom.

Jos of Feministing counters that with their go along to get along attitude pro-choice groups have only demonstrated that they can be ignored with impunity: “You don’t get rewarded for demonstrating a lack of political power, you get further marginalized.”

At RH Reality Check, Megan Carpentier argues that national pro-choice organization like NARAL and Planned Parenthood ceded their leverage too easily. While anti-choicers were beefing up their lobbying presence in Washington, major pro-choice groups were scaling back. Pro-choice groups compromised early and easily, perhaps because they were overly confident that their service to the Democratic cause would be rewarded in the end.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.



Liberal Opinion Columnist Says "Deem Is Dumb"

Over the last few days, left-wing Georgia bloggers have been justifying the so-called "Slaughter Solution" as a means to pass the yet-to-be-seen health care reform bill.

At Georgia Liberal, Brett called those opposed to the Slaughter Solution "ill-informed fools" [Brett (2010-3-16). The Self-Executing Rule — How to Pass Health Care. Georgia Liberal. Retrieved on 2010-3-18.]. And Johnathan of Beyond The Trestle described the Slaughter Solution as "a perfectly reasonable and acceptable procedural method" [Johnathan (2010-3-16). Common sense and procedural rules. Beyond The Trestle. Retrieved on 2010-3-18.].

For those unfamiliar, the Slaughter Solution is a parliamentary trick being considered by Democratic congressional leaders to pass health care reform without actually voting on it. Essentially, the House Rules Committee --chaired by New York Rep. Louise Slaughter-- would adopt a rule deeming the Senate health care bill passed without a formal roll call vote.

Conservatives have been up in arms over this sketchy move with some even questioning its constitutionality [Barbash, Fred (2010-3-16). ‘Slaughter Solution’ could face legal challenge. Politico. Retrieved on 2010-3-18.].

Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Cynthia Tucker weighed in on the discussion Wednesday afternoon, but her stance on the Slaughter Solution was not the one most would expect.

There's more...

Rules Chair Louise Slaughter Knows How to Negotiate

All year -- literally all year -- we've know the difference between a good bill and a bad bill would come down to who had the leverage going into Conference Committee.

Unfortunately, too many Democrats have decided to cave before Conference is even named.

So Rules Chair Louise Slaughter decided to put on a little demonstration of Political Negotiation 101 for all the WATB who are turning and running at the key moment in negotiations.

Representative Slaughter took to CNN with an op-ed designed to get the path to a good bill back on track. This, ladies and gentleman, is how you negotiate:

The Senate health care bill is not worthy of the historic vote that the House took a month ago.
Supporters of the weak Senate bill say "just pass it -- any bill is better than no bill."

I strongly disagree -- a conference report is unlikely to sufficiently bridge the gap between these two very different bills.

It's time that we draw the line on this weak bill and ask the Senate to go back to the drawing board. The American people deserve at least that.

There's more...

MyDD Interview with Louise Slaughter, House Rules Committee Chair

As youmay have noticed, I'm someone who is fairly interested in the rules by which the House of Representatives goes about its business. This interest stems at least in part from Republican claims, which have been picked up by some in the media, that the Democrats are not following through with their promise to run a more open House -- even though the Democrats are clearly running a more open House than the Republicans did in recent Congresses. For this reason, I jumped at the opportunity last week to talk about rules with the source on the subject, House Rules Committee chair Louise Slaughter.

On the afternoon of Monday, June 18, 2007, I had the opportunity to sit down with the New York Democrat to talk rules, touching on a number of the most pressing issues facing the House today, including the war in Iraq. You can listen to the interview in the player below, download the audio as a very large .mp3 here or read the rush transcript below.

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Jonathan Singer: Let's talk about rules. I like talking about rules.

Louise Slaughter: Most people don't.

Singer: I actually find it interesting. I'm one of the few. So in 1910 there was the rebellion that separated the Speaker from the Rules Committee.

Slaughter: Right.

Singer: And there really was more separation. Do you think today that revolution is still ongoing?

Slaughter: Absolutely.

Singer: Do you feel that you have the power, if you strongly disagree with the Speaker, to go against her on a rule?

Slaughter: Not without talking with her, but absolutely. There have been a couple of instances where, one I think we were doing the rules on the floor last year and Nancy was coming down and I said, "We've got to do away with these corporate jets. We can't carry that. We've got to cut out flights on corporate jets." She says, "It's gone."

She's probably the best politician I've seen in my entire life. We were elected about the same time. She came in about six or eight months after I did. Of course she fulfilled Sala Burton's term.

But, no, Nancy's not only very approachable, but she's in control of the House. There's no question about that. But I think she respects me enough - I know she does. She's put me on the leadership committee and so I'm in on every discussion that they have.

There's more...

Three FUs to the Base

Today is screw the base day, where insider liberals whine about us not accepting their ineffective bullshit.  First up is weakling Louise Slaughter and her diary on Dailykos.  Second up is 23 members of the CBC who wrote an incredibly whiny letter to Clinton, Obama, and Edwards asking them to do the Fox News-CBCi debate.  And third is Mark Penn, Clinton's chief strategist.

Alright, and to the barricades!

FU One

Representative Louise Slaughter is a nice example of the old progressive caucus mentality.  Here's her pathetic whiny diary on Daily Kos explaining why she's chosen to kill more Americans and Iraqis with her cowardly choices.  Activists are mad, as you can read in the comments.  Slaughter is basically acting like an irresponsible child.  She keeps pretending that this is Bush's war instead of an American war that we can and need to stop, and it's everyone's responsibility to deal with it but hers.  

Slaughter has always been an institutionalist, though she has a liberal voting record.  She's quite proud of her integrity and work on ethics, but if you talk to actual citizens that work on the issue, she's not there when you need her.  Last cycle, Slaughter refused to file an ethics complaint against Republicans because she didn't want to break the ethics truce with Tom Delay inc.  And then there's Slaughter endorsing a self-funding primary challenge to Eric Massa in NY-29, even though Massa has all the grassroots support in the district.

At the end of the day, Slaughter is part of a machine.  She doesn't have any independent capacity to make decisions or work according to progressive values.  She plays by Republican Calvinball rules.

FU Two

Let's go to the mostly progressive CBC and their choice to protect a really bad decision.  Here's a list of CBC members who whined to the Presidentials that they should go on Fox News in a letter written and sent a few days ago.  Color of Change listed the signers as follows.  I removed two of them because their names weren't clear. and I also bolded the members of the progressive caucus.  The CBC members who signed the letter didn't want their names out there, so I'm putting them out there.  It's so awesome how they want to ask Democrats to go on Fox News and don't want their names associated with the ask.  

Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick
Bennie Thompson
James Clyburn
Sanford Bishop
G.K. Butterfield
Mel Watt
Danny Davis
John Lewis
Keith Ellison
Charles Rangel
Eddie Bernice Johnson
Stephanie Tubbs Jones
Sheila Jackson Lee
Donna Christian-Christensen
Diane Watson
Al Wynn
Elijah Cummings
David Scott
Yvette Clarke
John Conyers
Hank Johnson
Al Green
Corrine Brown

Keith Ellison is particularly disappointing.  

FU Three

Let's go for old reliable in progressive disappointment, Hillary Clinton.  Here's Mark Penn, her chief strategist, on his corporate and political work.

`I have found the mixing of corporate and political work to be stimulating, enormously helpful in attracting talent, and helpful in cross- pollinating new ideas and skills.'

``And,'' he added, ``I have found it good for business.''

And what does Clinton think of this?

``The real question from the campaign perspective is whether Senator Clinton is comfortable with what Mark is doing, and the answer to that is yes, unequivocally,''

Progressives have seen better days. I think we all knew this was coming prior to the 2006 election, and it's best to take the long view. We didn't get into this mess in 2003, and it's going to take more than one election cycle to get us out.

There's more...


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