Senate Republicans & the Health Reform Reconciliation Bill

Health Reform Reconciliation Bill: Senate Republicans Resort to What They Do Best!

Barely hours after President Obama signed the landmark health reform legislation into law on Tuesday, driven by an unparalleled spirit of desperation and vindictiveness, the GOP set out to kill the new reconciliation bill before the US Senate.

This bill, approved Sunday night by the House of Representatives, was intended to bolster or shore-up the health reform legislation in some key significant ways. It would transform the federal student loan program by having the government, instead of private banks, directly issue loans to eligible students and address the donut hole (close the gap in Medicare prescription drug coverage by 2011 and extend a $250 rebate to seniors impacted this year by the gap).

If enacted into law, the reconciliation bill would also grant full-rate reimbursements to doctors caring for Medicaid patients, lower monetary sanctions for not buying insurance from $750 to $695, increase tax credits for middle-income families buying insurance, impose a Medicare tax on unearned income for families making more than $250,000 and modify the embarassing portion of the new health reform statute that granted Nebraska extra Medicaid funds by covering 100 percent of Medicaid cost increases for all states until 2016.

Intent on destroying this bill, Senate Republicans unsurprisingly sunk to new lows this week in their legislative maneuvers and other obstructionist antics. After unsuccessfully seeking to clog-up the process with a slew of arcane amendments, they threatened to invoke a little-known Senate rule by refusing to work past 2 p.m!

Going into this process, considering the flared tempers and how intense the discourse had gotten lately, most people expected Senate Republicans to inventively attempt to slow or chip away at the major provisions of this bill. But I must say that nothing prepared me for the squabbling and kindergartenesque banter that was showcased this week.

Seeing grown, educated men and women resort to the kinds of horseplay and frolics that are typical of elementary school children only leaves one fearful for the future of this republic.

It indeed is common knowledge that, beyond the theatrics, the Republican amendments were intended to provide fodder for the mid-terms: force Democrats to cast difficult political votes that the GOP can then turn around and use in TV ads during November's congressional elections.

Much as this work is far from being done, Senate Democrats ought be congratulated for their resolve and shared sense of purpose. They seem laser-focused on really getting things done with or without Republicans.

Thus far, through this reconciliation process, employing their healthy majority advantage, Senate Democrats defeated nearly 30 unintelligible GOP amendments to the bill.

However, Republican Senators may still be able to successfully impugn one or two provisions or languages in the bill and cause it to be returned to the House for final congressional approval before it can be sent up for the President’s signature.

Either way, we expect the Democratic Leadership in Congress not to waver from it’s commitment to seeing this reconciliation bill through before this weekend’s scheduled beginning of the congressional spring recess.

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