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Blame the gays!

Apr. 6th, 2010 | 03:00 pm

From the Vatican:<blockquote>"The pope defends life and the family, based on marriage between a man and a woman, in a world in which powerful lobbies would like to impose a completely different" agenda, Spanish Cardinal Julian Herranz, head of the disciplinary commission for Holy See officials, was quoted as saying.</blockquote>

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GOP likely to propose public option; Democrats to unanimously block it

Mar. 24th, 2010 | 05:36 am

Health Care Reform is now the law of the land! But there remains the sidecar "fix it" bill, which nukes some of the more galling deals in the original bill and implements a few other tweaks to reduce the deficit and generally improve the bill all over*. The House has already passed this sidecar, so now the Senate just has to pass the exact same bill with the exact same language to get it to Obama's desk. 

Democrats are using the reconciliation process for this bill, which means they only need a majority vote**. It also means that Republicans (or Democrats) can offer hundreds of amendments to be voted on***. 

Here's the catch: Any changes in the bill means that it goes back to the House to be voted on again, likely meaning at least another few weeks of debate and the possible failure of the sidecar. So Republicans are going to do everything in their power to get any amendment in the bill - including offering amendments which liberals are likely to find enticing.

This won't work - everyone in the room knows what the game is, and Democrats are expected to shoot down every amendment offered to get the bill passed. But in the meantime, Republicans are going to try to get Democrats on record as voting against the public option - and worse. 

None of these amendments are being taken seriously by anyone - their primary purpose, aside from being a last-ditch effort to torpedo the sidecar bill, is to generate fodder for scary campaign ads in the fall. "Your Congressmen voted against an amendment to outlaw death panels..."

* Because of the nature of the sidecar reconciliation bill, to had to be inserted into an existing bill to get voted on. The "real" purpose of this bill is to reform the student loan system. Which is also great! The original text of the bill says that instead of subsidizing big banks to give out student loans, the government will just fund the student loans directly - cutting out the middleman and saving a good bit of money in the process while expanding college access. So now it will do that WHILE improving health care reform. Win-win!

** Other quirks of the reconciliation process: It has to reduce the deficit, and can't affect social security in any way.

*** Until the 20 hours of debate expires.

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Your Congresswoman's New Healthcare Plan

Mar. 22nd, 2010 | 09:32 pm

A few months ago, Republicans thought they'd try to be clever and offer an amendment requiring every member of Congress to leave the federal health insurance program and purchase insurance through the newly-created health care exchanges. The idea was that Democrats would vote against it, proving that they were foisting an awful system on America.

This means that starting in 2014, every Senator, every Congresswoman (and their staffs) will be buying their health insurance through the same exchanges which individuals and small businesses throughout the country will be using.

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Waterloo!

Mar. 21st, 2010 | 09:20 pm

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SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY

Mar. 18th, 2010 | 09:21 am

Is when (the bulk of) health care reform will, in all probability, become law. The house will vote to pass the Senate's health care bill, and the President will sign it. Then The House and Senate will pass the sidecar bill (to fix some of the more glaring problems in the Senate bill and further reduce the deficit), which will probably get signed into law within the next week.

And then the United States will have passed the first major health care reform in decades, millions of more people will have health insurance, insurers will be subject to stricter regulations, recidivism will end, preexisting conditions will become irrelevant, people will be able to get affordable insurance though avenues besides large employers, the deficit will be less grim, and tens of thousands of people a year will not die. I will be happy about this.

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ignorance is Ignored

Dec. 6th, 2009 | 08:26 pm

One of the reasons we were set up as a Republic, instead of a direct democracy, is that it doesn't really make sense for hundreds of millions of people to delve into complex nuances of policy which they'll only have extremely marginal opportunities to effect. It costs a lot of time to sort through public policy, and most people, rationally, don't waste a ton of time on it. I suspect you'd find similar results across the policy spectrum, from foreign to monetary policy. Instead of obsessing over policy details, people elect a handful of people whose sole job it is to be be hyper-aware and immersed in policy details, and voters make a birds-eye-view judgment of their performance every few years in the elections. The idea is that you get the benefits of democracy without requiring everyone in the country to read 200 pages of policy briefings every week.

One of the results of this is that public office holders have some capacity to swing public opinion - lots of people who don't want to waste their time on boring policy details will defer their opinion to a group of trusted representatives. The Republican party, as a whole, figured this out some time ago. If you yell "socialization of medicine" and "death panels", that effects public opinion.

The Democratic Party has, largely, forgotten this lesson, evidenced by the decades-long pursuit of "triangulation" above all else. This is not as bad as it was for much of the 90's and 00's, but the Democratic representatives, on the whole, seem convinced that they are at the mercy of public opinion, rather than active participants in it. If polls show that people are "concerned" that the public option will cost too much money, then they have to be concerned about it too - even when such concerns lack absolutely any merit at all. In the end, many Democrats are so busy chasing polls that they never stop to notice thtat the polls are following them too.

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Equality in DC

Dec. 1st, 2009 | 10:39 am

D.C. is about to pass marriage equality. This makes me extremely happy.

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yay for Congress

Nov. 15th, 2009 | 12:40 am

From The NYTimes:

Statements by more than a dozen lawmakers were ghostwritten, in whole or in part, by Washington lobbyists working for Genentech, one of the world’s largest biotechnology companies.

E-mail messages obtained by The New York Times show that the lobbyists drafted one statement for Democrats and another for Republicans.

 

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CNN Becomes Mildly Less Putrid

Nov. 11th, 2009 | 08:00 pm

Lou Dobbs leaving CNN to spend more time protecting his family from brown people.

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While we're on the subject

Nov. 9th, 2009 | 11:18 am

This:

Rep. Bart Stupak's amendment did not make abortion illegal. And it did not block the federal government from subsidizing abortion. All it did was block it from subsidizing abortion for poorer women.

Stupak's amendment stated that the public option cannot provide abortion coverage, and that no insurer participating on the exchange can provide abortion coverage to anyone receiving subsidies. But as Rep. Jim Cooper points out in the interview below, the biggest federal subsidy for private insurance coverage is untouched by Stupak's amendment. It's the $250 billion the government spends each year making employer-sponsored health-care insurance tax-free.

That money, however, subsidizes the insurance of 157 million Americans, many of them quite affluent. Imagine if Stupak had attempted to expand his amendment to their coverage. It would, after all, have been the same principle: Federal policy should not subsidize insurance that offers abortion coverage. But it would have failed in an instant. That group is too large, and too affluent, and too politically powerful for Congress to dare to touch their access to reproductive services. But the poorer women who will be using subsidies on the exchange proved a much easier target. In substance, this amendment was as much about class as it was about choice.

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