Eliminate Filibuster Now: A "First 100 Days" of Year 2, Avoid Supreme Court Fight, Win 2010 Elections.

Police Lt.: Well, Denham, the airplanes got him.
Denham: No, it wasn't the airplanes. It was beauty killed the beast (King Kong, 1933)

The filibuster will be eliminated this year. One, and possibly two, Justices will retire at the end of the term in June. There is a 100% guarantee that Republicans will filibuster anyone President Obama appoints, claiming approval should await the outcome of the November elections. The President has shown a belief, unsupported by events, to try to be acceptable at least to some Republicans so they will vote for him, in this case, his nominee.

They won't.

So, we will get a lukewarm nominee, and no Supreme Court Justice. The Republicans know theatre very well--that situation will be perceived as the pathetic end of a dysfunctional government.

At that point, Democrats will truly be in a no-win position. If they eliminate the filibuster at that time, for that single purpose, Republicans will have a couple of months right before the election to denounce the 'trickery' to get 'activist' Justices seated. Nonetheless, they will have to eliminate the filibuster then because not to do so would alienate all their constituencies, and guarantee a shellacking in the 2010 elections.

More importantly, Democrats will be in a no-win position because the government will have been dysfunctional for another year and, despite it being Republicans' fault, the Democrats will be blamed because they are in control. And, they have 59 votes, more than Republicans ever had when they rammed through their agenda, and ran the country into the ground.

So, why not recognize the inevitable? Eliminate the filibuster right now. Then, the Republicans' pompous posturing will dissipate after a couple of months now, not near the election, and the Democrats will have a chance to do a "First Hundred Days" of year 2, to pass a robust agenda that will indeed have brought about change:

1) A jobs bill that actually creates jobs;
2) Approve all the President's appointments, together, one vote.
3) A financial reform bill that incorporates Elizabeth Warren's consumer protection agency and (my hope) reinstitution of Glass-Steagall.
4) Healthcare reform incorporating Joe Lieberman's former love, buy-in to medicare for those 55 and older; and a public option; and a combination of taxing high-end plans + a surtax on the wealthy (House + Senate version).
5) Student loan reform
6) Energy tax and rebate (Senator Cantwell's proposal).

While the Republicans bellyache about being steamrollered, Democrats can pass the agenda for which the nation voted in 2008, but soured because of the dithering and dealmaking the existence of the filibuster created. Without the filibuster, no one would have had to talk to Joe Lieberman or Blanche Lincoln or Ben Nelson. [And, since no one would have had to talk to them, I bet they would have been more supportive!].

Without a filibuster, when the summer arrives, and the 1-2 Justices announce their retirements, the President can nominate really good people to the bench. One might suspect that the caliber of those people would be significantly higher than whom he might choose in the vain attempt to get Republican support.

Today, the world is disintegrating. Republicans fear the President's success, both at home and abroad. So does al-Qaeda and Ahmadinejad. They are all reveling in his troubles, because his capacity to force change abroad is limited by his inability to do it at home.

I am late to the "end the filibuster" movement because I worry about what Bush et al. might have done if there were no filibuster then. Social security would have been privatized--and decimated by the financial collapse. Stem cell research would have been totally outlawed (passed twice by the House).

But, I am willing to take those future chances, because the country and the world cannot await an even greater than 60-vote majority that Lyndon Johnson had in the 1960s that will never happen. Eliminating the filibuster means we have to deliver for the American people, and maintain constant vigilance against another radical rightwing takeover.

Although the President is not himself a "boomer", those who control the Congress are. Many of them had their hopes and dreams for a better America, and a safer and more just world, dashed when Robert Kennedy was assassinated. It was then hijacked by George W Bush.

This is their last chance. It starts with eliminating the filibuster.

Now.

 

Senate votes down deficit-cutting commission

Yesterday, while debating a bill to raise the debt ceiling, the Senate rejected an amendment to "establish a Bipartisan Task Force for Responsible Fiscal Action, to assure the long-term fiscal stability and economic security of the Federal Government of the United States, and to expand future prosperity and growth for all Americans."

President Barack Obama supported creating that commission, which is the brainchild of Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad. The goal is to find some way to get big Social Security and Medicare cuts through Congress. Don't get me started on why a Democratic president and a bunch of Democratic senators are so keen on cutting the most successful programs Democrats have ever enacted.

Anyway, Conrad's idea was for the commission to work out a comprehensive deficit reduction strategy, which Congress would be not be empowered to amend before voting on it. Two decades ago, a similar procedure was developed for recommending military base closings to Congress.

Conrad's amendment failed on a bipartisan 53-46 vote. 36 Democrats, 16 Republicans and Joe Lieberman voted for creating the deficit reduction commission, while 22 Democrats, 23 Republicans and Bernie Sanders voted no (roll call here). Bloomberg News reported,

Conrad’s idea was attacked from the left and right, with groups such as the Washington-based anti-tax Americans for Tax Reform saying it would mean higher taxes while the AFL-CIO and NAACP said it would lead to cuts in federal benefits.

It was also opposed by lawmakers who lead congressional committees with authority over tax and spending programs. Among them are Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus of Montana, Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia and Tom Harkin of Iowa, head of the health-care panel.

Senate Republican Conference Chair Lamar Alexander told Politico that Obama needs to "produce a Democratic majority in favor of" this idea if he wants more Republicans to vote for it.

During tonight's State of the Union address, Obama is expected to announce plans to create his own deficit reduction commission. Bloomberg noted yesterday that "Such a panel’s recommendations ordinarily could be ignored by lawmakers, although Conrad, North Dakota Democrat, is trying to negotiate an agreement to guarantee a vote."

Too bad the wrong North Dakota Democrat is retiring from the Senate.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

Democrats lose, move even further to the right

San Francisco Chronicle:

GOP’s Brown wins Mass. Senate race in epic upset

In an epic upset in liberal Massachusetts, Republican Scott Brown rode a wave of voter anger to win the U.S. Senate seat held by the late Edward M. Kennedy for nearly half a century, leaving President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul in doubt and marring the end of his first year in office...

Brown led by 52 per cent to 47 percent with all but 3 percent of precincts counted. Turnout was exceptional for a special election in January, with light snow reported in parts of the state. More voters showed up at the polls Tuesday than in any non-presidential general election in Massachusetts since 1990.

The Democrats' answer? Go after the most popular government programs ever created in the U.S.

There's more...

States React to the "Nebraska Compromise"

A number of states are pushing back against the deal that Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson secured for his state that would permanently exempt Nebraska from paying Medicaid costs with the tab being picked up the Federal government. Connecticut's Republican Governor, Jodi Rell, has asked her state's Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal, to file a lawsuit against the Federal government should Nebraska receive additional monies to finance the expansion of Medicare in the final version of the healthcare bill. From the New Haven Register:

Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell has asked the state attorney general to sue the federal government if Nebraska receives extra Medicaid money in the final version of federal health care reform legislation.

In order to secure the support of Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson for the bill, Senate Democrats included a controversial provision that allows the federal government to pick up 100 percent of the cost of Medicaid expansion in his state.

Rell, a Republican, says the inequity of that provision is "astonishing," and that Connecticut is traditionally reimbursed at a 50 percent rate for Medicaid expenses.

Medicaid is a government health care program, administered by states, for low-income people.

Rell says if Connecticut got the same deal as Nebraska, it could reap up to $262 million annually.

Beyond Connecticut, seven other states are also pushing back on the "Nebraska Compromise" which is frankly more like a "Nebraska Purchase." The Miami Herald reports that top prosecutors in seven states are probing the constitutionality of the political deal.

Attorney General Henry McMaster said he and his counterparts in Alabama, Colorado, Michigan, North Dakota, Texas and Washington state - all Republicans - are jointly taking a look at the deal they've dubbed the "Nebraska compromise."

"The Nebraska compromise, which permanently exempts Nebraska from paying Medicaid costs that Texas and all other 49 states must pay, may violate the United States Constitution - as well as other provisions of federal law," Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said.

McMaster's move comes at the request of Republican U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint of South Carolina.

Along with Texas, officials in Washington, Alabama, Colorado and Michigan confirmed they were working with McMaster.

North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said he wasn't sure what could be done while the federal legislation remained under debate. Officials in the other states did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, Tennessee's Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey called for his state's attorney general to investigate the deal.

Ramsey, McMaster and Michigan's Mike Cox are running for governor in their states.

"Whether in the court of law or in the court of public opinion, we must bring an end to this culture of corruption," McMaster said. The negotiations "on their face appear to be a form of vote buying paid for by taxpayers," he said.

McMaster is encouraging a South Carolina citizen to step forward to sue to challenge the measure if it is signed into law. "We'll assist anyone to the extent that we're able," McMaster said.

Frankly, I am not surprised by this and I wouldn't be surprised if more states take similar action. The solution is really to federalize Medicare. Since 1988, the Federal government has increasingly passed on to the states the responsibility to cover the cost-sharing burdens of many low-income Medicare beneficiaries. It's time to unburden the states especially given the incredible budgetary constraints faced by numerous states at this time.

There's more...

Co-Pays, Deductibles, Out of Pocket Expenses, and Me

As a self employed person who had private insurance and dropped it a few years back, let me simply share this with you. As I kept getting older and my premiums kept increasing, I couldn't afford what it cost me to keep my health care insurance. Before I took the final step of dropping that insurance, I progressively watered down my own coverage; opting for ever higher deductibles, dropping prescription drug benefits etc. all in an effort to contain the rising costs that I just couldn't afford.

It reached the point where I realized that the odds favored me being better off using all of that money that I was giving my insurance company each month to pay for my out of pocket medical expenses as they came up, instead of not being able to pay for them at all after spending huge sums on my insurance. In short I could no longer afford to pay for ANY medical care because of the amount of money it was costing me to retain medical insurance. There was nothing left in my pockets to pay for out of pocket expenses. My health insurance had drained me of my ability to seek and obtain medical care.

There's more...

Diaries

Advertise Blogads