Health care reform was passed yesterday, at almost midnight Eastern Time. As usual with sweeping comprehensive legislation, there was a lot wheeling and dealing up until the last minute. Most notably Rep. Bart Stupak from Michigan had a lot of concerns regarding the abortion language in the Senate version of the bill and President Obama took care of his concern with the promise of an executive order, re-affirming that no public funds will go towards payment of abortions.
Even up until the last minutes of the debate, there were angry showdowns and outbursts. Minority Leader John Boehner looked like he might blow a gasket when delivering his final opposition remarks on the bill. Rep. Randy Neugebauer of Texas shouted “baby killer” at Rep. Bart Stupak when Stupak reiterated to the members of the House that the “recommitting motion” is nothing more than a stall tactic to kill the bill on the part of Republicans and that he was satisfied with the abortion language along with the president’s executive order. The debates wouldn’t be complete if someone from the GOP side didn’t make a complete fool of themselves and this is on top of the protesters outside of the Capitol building who shouted racial slurs at Rep. John Lewis and antigay slurs at Rep. Barney Frank.
The Republicans routinely like to distance themselves from the rogue faction (the name calling racists and homophobic members) of their party when it’s advantageous for them, yet the Republicans also need their support when it comes to their own anti-Obama and anti-Pelosi agendas. The rogue faction of the Republican party is like what Reverend Jeremiah Wright was to President Obama—the ranting and raving crazy uncle you want to cut off but can’t out of loyalty. It can be a real pickle when the crazy uncle in the family doesn’t take the cue and go away. Surprisingly, Minority Whip Eric Cantor was more dispassionate in his opposition than the leader of his party.
The president wisely postponed his trip overseas until June so he can now implement the immediate provisions of this bill. States like California and Illinois will benefit immediately because of the severe rate hikes being imposed soon. The United States, even after this economic downturn, is still the wealthiest nation in the world, who every year gives billions of dollars in aid to other countries, but cannot take care of its own when it comes to health care. Families and senior citizens have gone bankrupt because of an accident or illness and the fact that many Americans are just one accident, one illness away from losing everything is unacceptable for the wealthiest nation on earth.
Specifically for California, the passage of the health care bill will require insurance for all legal residents. California will still have a high number of uninsured because of the illegal immigrant population. By 2014, Medi-Cal (California’s Medicare system) will be expanded to include adults under 65 who make 133% over the national poverty average and will increase payments to physicians. Most importantly, children with pre-existing conditions will get coverage this year and those who don’t have health insurance coverage due to pre-existing conditions, a high-risk insurance pool will be created within six months and subsidized by the federal government. There will be no annual or lifetime caps.
What remains to be seen politically is how much political capital is left for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, President Obama, Sen. Harry Reid and other Democrats. Pelosi took a huge gamble by personally spearheading the health care reform effort. When she ascended to the speakership in 2007, she made it clear to her caucus that she was not the one to lead from the background, she will lead from the front and center and she will gladly put her name on something she believes in. She certainly showed that conviction with this health care bill and as a result her reputation has taken a beating (the RNC called her Cruella de Ville among other unflattering names being flung at her). President Obama still has two more years until he is up for re-election so he still has time earn back the political capital that he lost in the health care fight, he doesn’t seem too concerned about his re-election. Sen. Harry Reid’s position is more precarious as polls in his home state of Nevada shows he is 10 points behind his Republican opponent. But it’s not too late for Sen. Reid, Nevada is a state hit hard by the housing crisis and recession and if the effects of the health care bill reach enough people before the November elections, there is still a chance Sen. Reid will get re-elected.
Pundits have opined in column inches and news television shows about how the Democratic party will fare in the midterm elections and the general consensus is if they pass health care bill they could lose a lot of seats, especially the freshmen members of the house who were swept into office on President Obama’s lead but if they don’t pass the bill, it will appear that even with a huge majority, the Democrats can’t govern. The Democratic leadership made the right choice by taking a big risk and passing the bill by any means because it shows that it’s a party of conviction and will, whether the voters agree with that conviction is another matter, at least it can’t be accused as a party that is fractured and can’t govern, which is a more serious offense.
High drama aside, whether the bill passes or not, members of Congress won’t be personally affected, they after all, have some of the best insurance policies in the country by virtue of their position. In the final analysis, what the Democrats and the president want, and what the Republicans fail to understand, is they want to give us, the American people, the same affordable health care coverage they enjoy, which is not radical or extreme. There is no socialist or Marxist agenda, there is no conspiracy for government ‘take over’ health care, which is one-fifth of the US economy and certainly, no one is going to pull the plug on granny or deny a special needs child care or services. So Congressman Boehner, in light of all that, there is really nothing for you to have your blood boil over, after all, you didn’t suffer any personal loss, you just didn't get your way.