Friday, December 18, 2009

Harry Reid's Demented Obsession

Has Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) lost his mind? I mean seriously, is the man insane? I was up reading late last night (Thursday) and happened to remember that the Senate was supposed to reconvene at 12:01 a.m. Friday morning to vote for cloture on the bill to fund the military. "Vote for cloture" is a phrase I wouldn't have understood just six short months ago. Sadly, I know all too well now what it means. All it means is a vote to end debate on a bill--it does not mean that a Senator is voting "for" a bill. A Senator could just as easily vote for cloture so that he or she could get on with a negative vote. But I digress.

I turned on CSPAN for a little while to see if the Senate was really in session--and I saw a little bit of the Senate debate and vote to end cloture. What I thought was, these people are too old to be staying up so late. I have no idea how long they were at it, because I went to bed.

Harry is keeping these hours, and causing his fellow Senators and staff to keep them with him, so that he can keep to a totally artificial deadline of passing the Senate version of the health care bill before the Senate leaves Washington for Christmas break. Of course he needs to do that, because the thinking is, if the Senators go home for Christmas break and get an earful from the 61% or so of Americans who are against this craptastik government takeover of one-sixth of the economy, then passing this monster bill when they come back from break in 2010 is going to be next to impossible. If he is able to keep to the schedule, if Republicans are unable to slow the vote down more than they have, then it looks as though the Senate will be voting on the bill on Christmas Eve.

Then there's this: none of Harry's colleagues, even Democrat Senators, have actually seen this bill. Huh? Well, evidently that's true, because even the Democrats keep saying they haven't seen the bill. This was posted today at Politico: "Wait Goes On, Possibly No Bill Till Morning." So what's going on?

It's all about 60 votes. Sen. Reid is having a hell of a time getting the 60 votes he needs for this bill. As of today, Friday he evidently still doesn't have the votes he needs, so Harry is going to do an end-around the need for 60 and use something called the manager's amendment.  Let David Brody explain what that is and why Harry's using it. It's complicated, so I'm going to quote him at length:

Let me try and explain this. You see, Harry Reid needs 60 votes to pass a healthcare reform bill. If Ben Nelson's pro-life language is not in the bill, Nelson says he won't vote for it. That leaves Reid at 59. Independent Joe Lieberman won't vote for the bill if it has a public option in it so now Reid is at 58. To get to 60, Reid has a couple options. First of all, he's going to need to change the public option that is currently in the Senate bill so he could try to forge some sort of compromise in the public option (negotiations are taking place now on that) to the point where Snowe and Lieberman agree to it. That would be 60. Or to get Nelson back on board, he could just put Nelson's pro-life abortion amendment in a larger Manager's Amendment at the end of the process right before a final vote. (yes pro-choicers will hate this but they may have no other choice if they want healthcare reform) If he does that, he gets Nelson and hopes that Lieberman is content enough with the compromise on the "new" version of the so-called public option. That could get Reid to 60 as well.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Sen. Jim DeMint have threatened use any procedures available to them to slow down the vote on the bill, including requiring that the bill be read on the Senate floor before it can be voted on. They did this with an amendment submitted by Vermont self-proclaimed Socialist Bernie Sanders. After about three hours of reading, Sanders withdrew his amendment--which was against Senate rules, but if you're the Majority party, and you're a Democrat, then I guess you can throw 200+ years of Senate polity out the window if it doesn't serve your purposes.

Usually the reading of a bill is set aside in a unanimous vote, but in this case, with Harry's timeline being such an issue, those against the bill hoped that by slowing down the process, Reid would be forced to send the Senate home for Christmas break without a vote. I've done the math, and if they were to read the 3,000-page bill on the Senate floor, they would be at it for about 19 8-hour days. That's where the manager's amendment comes in so handy for Harry Reid, since this thing would take, as someone else has estimated, only about eight hours to read. However, since no one has seen an actual copy of this manager's amendment, who's to say that the estimate is correct. I don't think even Harry Reid knows how many pages are in this thing--so I don't think that estimate is worth much.

The Hill is reporting for the Senate to vote on the health care bill before Christmas, Sen. Reid will have to force votes all week at odd hours, like the one at 1:00 a.m. this morning to end cloture on the spending bill. The Hill spells out the details of what Reid will have to do to stick to his schedule for a vote by Christmas. And again, all I can say is that the pressure of passing this legislation seems to have driven Harry Reid right around the bend. Seriously, I'm hoping for a nervous breakdown for the guy, the sooner the better. What he is doing is plain evil. Last night I watched as they wheeled in poor old 90-something Robert Byrd (D-WV) by wheelchair, at 1:00 a.m., so that he could cast his vote for cloture. I didn't hear anyone report it, but I'm quite sure I heard Senator Lieberman's distinctive voice cry "Shame" as they brought him in--I assume "shame" that they would bring an old man out of his bed in the middle of the night so that Harry Reid can shove this crap bill down the country's collective throat.

Speaking of Sen. Lieberman. He's an orthodox Jew who doesn't drive or ride on Saturday, the Jewish sabbath. Which means he will be walking to the Senate chambers from his Georgetown home if a vote is called for on Saturday. But it's my understanding that "driving" or "riding" is defined as "work," which is why it's forbidden on the Sabbath. So why would Lieberman be able to cast a vote on the Sabbath--wouldn't that be "work"? Lieberman explains: religious law makes an exemption for actions that are for the welfare of the community, and many Democrats — if not Republicans — think healthcare reform will help their communities. “I have a responsibility to my constituents, really to my conscience, to be here on something as important as healthcare reform,” he said.

Plus there's a big-ass snowstorm forecast for Washington tonight--it's snowing there as I write this and the roads already look nasty, and there's a winter storm warning until 6:00 a.m. on Sunday. Considering the weather report and the late hours that everyone will be keeping, Bill Kristol at the Weekly Standard is calling for Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) to end all of this tonight ("End It Today, Ben") by announcing today he won't vote for cloture on the health care bill and allowing everyone to go home for the weekend: Harry Reid is maniacally insisting on a Christmas Eve vote on a bill whose final text no one has seen yet. So from a good government point of view, Nelson can say that he feels he has to be against cloture.

Update. Well, this is a first, linking on this site to that ultra-leftist whacko Daily Kos, who is calling for the Senate to scrap this crap bill and start over. He gets most of it wrong, with whacko-leftist revisionist history, but in the end he's still calling for the bill to be pulled.

And at what point do supporters finally bail on this? When the subsidies are removed, medicaid expansion curtailed, Stupak anti-abortion language included?

We're at the point, I think, where you strip this thing of anything remotely controversial and pass whatever is left -- maybe tougher rules against rescissions, some regulatory reform, etc. But as far as substantive reform, we live in a legislative world were a majority can't accomplish shit because idiotic rules prevent government from governing. And we can't resort to reconciliation because we live in a world in which procedural tactics that were okay for Republicans, are somehow off limits for Democrats.

Um, Kos, Republicans used reconciliation (the 51-vote option) on a budget bill to end cuts in Medicare and student loans, not on a bill that would take over one-sixth of the economy that almost two-thirds of the American people don't want. But here I am, arguing with an idiot, which I have told myself I will not waste my time doing.

DK concludes: [I]t's time for people to stop supporting the current bill until we know what it will actually look like. Because it doesn't just enable its opponents, but will also leave you looking stupid when that bill turns out to be nothing more than a backdoor expansion of abortion restrictions, and assorted other horrors. I couldn't agree more.

Update. Here's a good website: Defeat Reid 2010. I just made a contribution.

Update #2. Saturday afternoon. Well, I guess the guy is crazy like a fox. It certainly looks like he's going to succeed in shoving this crap sandwich health bill down our collective throat. I like this article at PajamasMedia by Richard Pollock: "The Health Care Bill No One Can See."

On January 21, 2009, the president issued an eloquent statement — almost poetic — on how information can really be a truly valuable national asset:

Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their Government is doing. Information maintained by the Federal Government is a national asset.

So here we are, eleven months into his young administration, and we are seeing a pivotal bill born of the worst possible process: no openness, tons of secrecy, and back room wheeling and dealing. . . . After eight years of screaming about President Bush’s secrecy, it is interesting that the mainstream media is largely mum about the legislative abuse now underway.

We don’t know how AARP fared in influencing details of the bill. Or how SEIU shaped the bill. Or what Big Pharma was promised for its endorsement of an early Obama plan. Citizens cannot see who authored which provisions, who won big federal favors, or who will get new privileges in the Brave New World of Big Brother delivering health care. No one knows … yet.

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