PUMA and Bush's Medicare Veto Override

This is a press release directly from Senator Reid's office. I don't know what media you have been watching, but the MSM seems to be covering the "perception that Obama is weaker on foreign policy issues" in deference to a whole lot of news. I just saw another story about The New Yorker cover, Yankee fans booing both George Steinbrenner and members of the Boston Red Sox, and the hot weather coming. Not a word about who or what PUMA is. It's a drama card that could be played right around the Democratic Convention coverage time, and I won't care about it then either. But the MSM will play it. Will anyone really care about it then? Those who are getting caught up in the intrigue and suspense might want to read this press release that comes complete with a history of issues that tell us what Americans really care about, especially Democrats. Read it before the story about Madonna's brother's book takes over the news cycle.

Oh, and there is a God, or some version of a news cycle deity, if you will. The stories about dogs being given SSRIs to avoid a lifetime of chasing their own tails seems to have played itself out. I mean, do these people not know about the power of a hot dog to resolve most canine issues, at least temporarily?

This press release is why I'm a Democrat, and will always be a Democrat. I don't care about lockstep blog entries or dissenting posts. Free speech rights give us all the tools to say some really ridiculous and sometimes incredibly stupid and occasionally wise things. They also give groups of eight to 27 people the right to speak and issue press releases about things no one actually cares about except those 8 to 27 people and the pathetic journalist or pundit or programming manager trying to create content to sell advertising. I care that people are smart enough to realize that McCain and his Republican colleagues want to take us back to pre-Medicare days. We would not just lose any type of patchwork healthcare safety net.

Washington, DC--Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today after the U.S. Senate voted to overwhelmingly override President Bush's veto of the Medicare doctor's fix, thus reversing payment cuts for doctors and improving care for patients.  The House also overrode the President's veto earlier today.

"Congress today did its part to make sure the President's stubborn opposition to the millions of American seniors and veterans who rely on Medicare does not stand.  Refusing to respect the will of the American people or its elected representatives, the President vetoed a bipartisan bill passed overwhelmingly by both houses.  We wasted no time in reversing the President's carelessness and protecting our nation's doctors and the patients they treat - and this responsible and overdue Medicare fix is now law.

"It may have taken just one flourish of a pen to affix the name `Lyndon Baines Johnson' to the law that created Medicare in 1965.  But that one pen stroke created a program that has come to reflect a bedrock American principle: that all those seniors who have worked hard - and all those who need a helping hand - will find themselves embraced by the care of our compassionate nation.

"And though Medicare was created by a Democratic Congress and a Democratic President, that principle has always been anchored far too deep in our soil for the roots of partisanship to entangle.  When the program has been threatened, Democrats and Republicans have risen to the occasion to protect it.

"So it was last month, when the House of Representatives approved the `doctor's fix' by an overwhelming vote of 355-59.  So it was last week, when Senator Kennedy led a veto-proof majority of all Democrats and 18 Republicans voting yes.  So it was earlier today, when the House voted to override President Bush's veto, 383-41.  So it must be now, as we follow suit to reject the veto and place this legislation into law.

"On the July day in 1965 when President Johnson signed the original Medicare bill, he said this:

`Just think, because of this document - and the long years of struggle which so many have put into creating it - in this town, and a thousand other towns like it, there are men and women in pain who will now find ease.

`There are those, alone in suffering who will now hear the sound of some approaching footsteps coming to help.

`There are those fearing the terrible darkness of despairing poverty - despite their long years of labor and expectation - who will now look up to see the light of hope and realization.'

"Since the day President Johnson handed the very first Medicare card to President Truman, hundreds of millions of senior citizens and people with disabilities have received their own card.  Each new card issued strengthens our commitment to the health and well-being of our most vulnerable.  Now it is our turn to do our part - to renew the light of hope for those who need our help the most."


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Obama highlights Medicare bill's effect in 19 states

cross-posted at Bleeding Heartland

Barack Obama has released a strong statement on the Medicare bill that the U.S. Senate passed yesterday. John McCain opposed the bill but did not show up to vote against it.

Obama's statement begins by briefly explaining why he is right and McCain is wrong:

"Today, the U.S. Senate took a major step forward in addressing the needs of seniors and military families all across this nation.  At a time when doctors are facing double digit increases in the costs of providing care, I am proud to have joined with my colleagues to stop a devastating cut in physician reimbursement that would have caused them to shut the door to many Medicare and Tricare beneficiaries.  John McCain has said that he would have opposed this bill, demonstrating yet again that he's more than willing to put the interests of the health insurance industry over our nation's 44 million seniors and 9 million uniformed service members," said Senator Barack Obama.

The release then cites numbers calculated by the American Medical Association on the impact of this bill in 19 states (which just happen to be states contested in the presidential race). For each state, five numbers are given:

-the dollar amount in Medicare payments that would have been lost by December 2009 if the bill had not passed

-the average dollar amount each physician would have lost in reimbursements

-the number of employees who would have been affected

-the number of Medicare patients who would have been affected

-the number of TRICARE patients who would have been affected

For instance,

Iowa:
          Payments Lost by Dec. 2009: $110 million
          Average Physician's Loss: $17,000
          People Affected:       27,095 employees,
468,637 Medicare patients
41,891 TRICARE patients

The format makes it quick and easy for a newspaper editor or broadcast news producer in any of these 19 states to cast this story in a favorable light for Obama and an unfavorable light for McCain.

If you live in one of these 19 states, put up a diary with the numbers on your state's community blog for Democrats. (Links to most of these blogs can be found right on the MyDD front page.) Send a link to your diary to local journalists who cover health issues. You may want to mention that John McCain was the only senator who did not show up to vote on this Medicare bill.

The full text of the Obama campaign's press release is after the jump.

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Why 60 Votes Matters: A Case Study on Today's Medicare Vote

We have had an ongoing debate on the virtue of pursuing 60 seats in the United States Senate, whether that number really matters or if it is just an excuse for not getting things done. This afternoon, just within the past few minutes, we have seen a clear reason why 60 votes matters.

A couple weeks ago, the Senate voted on legislation that would stave off greater than a 10 percent cut to doctors providing service to Medicare patients, as well as certain veterans. Although the measure passed overwhelmingly in the House -- to the tune of 355 to 59, with most Republicans voting in favor of the measure -- Republicans in the Senate decided to filibuster the bill leaving it a single vote short of attaining cloture.

Harry Reid subsequently switched his "yes" vote to a "no" in order to preserve the option of bringing the bill back to the floor for another vote -- a prerogative he made use of this afternoon. And just a few minutes ago, Senator Ted Kennedy, who has not been back to the Senate since he underwent brain surgery, made his triumphant return to the chamber to provide the Medicare bill its 60th supporter in the House.

Immediately thereafter, nine GOP Senators, all of whom had been to that point steadfastly in opposition to the bill -- even in the face of a strong push from the Democrats and a super strong push from the AMA, which has been an overwhelming supporter of the GOP in years past -- switched their position on the legislation. All of the sudden, as a result of getting a 60th vote, the bill went from having 59 to 39 support in the Senate to having 69 to 30 support -- more than enough to override a threatened veto from President Bush (assuming those Senators vote the same on an override vote as they did on the cloture vote). Not even a visit by Vice President Dick Cheney to lobby Senate Republicans could stem this movement.

This is exactly what the power of 60 is and why it is so important to strive for 60 Democratic Senators in the 111th Congress. It is why we at MyDD have set up our Road to 60 Act Blue page raising money for the candidates who will help tear down John Ensign's 41-seat firewall. When a bill or an amendment has enough support to sustain a filibuster, it is much easier for the minority party to keep in line. But once the majority can get to 60 votes -- a task made all the much more easy if the party has 60 seats, or close to it (even if not all of the members vote together on a particular issue) -- Senators in the minority are much more free to vote their conscience (or at least as the political winds are blowing) with the majority.

This is not always the case, and it will not always be the case. Having 60 Democratic Senators come January would not necessarily mean that the war would end immediately, or that universal healthcare would be easily achieved. But as you can see with today's vote on Medicare payments to doctors, 60 votes matters -- and even getting one more voice on the path to that goal can make all the difference in the world.

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Breaking: Kennedy Returns to the Senate for Medicare Vote; Cloture Passes 69-30

From The Hill:

Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) returned to the Senate Wednesday to cast the decisive vote on stalled Medicare legislation, making his first appearance in the chamber since he was diagnosed two months ago with brain cancer.

Huzzah for the bill, huzzah for Senator Reid's refusal to cave to the Republicans, and a triple huzzah for Senator Kennedy's strength and health!

Update [2008-7-9 17:13:21 by Jonathan Singer]: I'll be putting up some extended thoughts on the vote in a few minutes, but for those who haven't yet had a chance to see it, Think Progress has posted video of Kennedy's very emotional return to the Senate.

Update [2008-7-9 17:19:21 by Transplanted Texan]: The cloture vote was 69-30, so quite a number of Republicans flipped. The roll call vote is now available on Senate.gov. First Read has Kenendy's statement:

I return to the Senate today to keep a promise to our senior citizens -- and that's to protect Medicare. Win, lose or draw, I wanted to be here. I wasn't going to take the chance that my vote could make the difference. Medicare should not be a partisan issue. Illness and age know no party boundaries. The 44 million Americans who rely on Medicare to meet their health care needs are both Democrats and Republicans. Like all Americans, they have worked hard all their lives. They've raised their families. They've built our towns and cities and farmed the land. They've served in our military.

We owe them so much for the part they have played in making America a great country. So today I proudly cast this important vote for them -- a vote to keep the Medicare program strong and effective for the future.

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McCain Blocks Medicare Funding

Sometimes it is good to remember who the real enemy is.  Recently, a Medicare funding bill was passed by the House 355-59.  The bill would fund and expand low-income assistance programs and preventive services, as well as prevent a 10% reduction in doctor reimbursement rates that went into effect on July 1.  The additional costs of funding would be offset by cuts in payments to private plans that participate in Medicare.  Therein lies the rub, as explained by the NY Times:

That has inflamed opposition from the White House and Senate Republicans who seem determined to protect inefficient private plans from the rigors of competing fairly against traditional Medicare coverage. Medicare pays these private plans, known as Medicare Advantage, an average of 13 percent more to provide the same services as the traditional Medicare program.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/05/opinio n/05sat2.html?_r=2&oref=slogin&o ref=slogin

However, the bill enjoys broad support among doctors and pharmacists and passed the House with a veto-proof majority.  All good, right?  Not quite.

The Senate Republicans, in their infinite wisdom and love for hardworking Americans, decided to filibuster the bill.  On June 26, 2008, cloture failed by a vote of 58-40 (i.e., 2 votes short of defeating the filibuster).  Sens. Obama and Clinton voted for cloture, as did all Democrats other than Kennedy (who did not vote, for obvious reasons) and Reid.  Even Lieberman voted in favor of cloture.  As for Reid, his vote "against" cloture is misleading - his vote was a procedural maneuver so that he can bring the bill up later.  In other words, cloture failed by one vote.

http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/ro ll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?con gress=110&session=2&vote=00160

Any guess on who decided to skip the vote to attend a fundraiser in Ohio?  It's awfully convenient that Senate Republicans mostly avoid blame by quietly filibustering this bill, and that McCain avoids even more blame by failing to show up and letting the rest of the Republicans take the fall for him.  Such is the way of the maverick.

A much more detailed analysis of this whole series of events can be found on Openleft, here:  http://www.openleft.com/showDiary.do;jse ssionid=6EE0933FFA4BD49A4EEBD8A35A61BB2A ?diaryId=6782

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