What's Next For Healthcare Reform?

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Whoever said that the Republican National Party was done couldn’t have been farther from the truth.  In a move that some could equate to a political version of a temper tantrum, the GOP has made life pretty doggone difficult for the Democrats, who’d apparently assumed that the Republicans would go away quietly after President Obama declared “checkmate” and signed the healthcare reform bill into law.

Not so fast, Mr. Obama.  The GOP still has a few tricks up its proverbial sleeve.  In a marathon session that kept conservative lawmakers up well past their usual bedtimes, the Senate Republicans found their “Aha!” moment, well, two of them, actually.  They were able to find violations in two provisions in the bill that required the bill to be sent back to the House, revised and then re-voted on. 

Of course, simply forcing a re-vote wasn’t quite the spectacularly brilliant move they were hoping for.  After a mere 6 hours or so of sleep, the GOP was back in session in the Senate, considering additional amendments that would force Senate Democrats to make unpopular votes, thus smearing the names of the officials and ultimately jeopardizing their re-election in the November mid-terms.  As if the Democrats that voted yes on the healthcare reform bill needed any additional smearing.

Angry constituents have already begun exercising their First Amendment rights to free speech and starting making phone calls to their elected officials, some even threatening their lives and their lives of their families, over the passage of the reform bill.  Sounds to me like the GOP smear campaign would simply be the icing on the cake and the end of the Democratic powerhouse majority they have enjoyed since Obama’s been elected. 

In any event, make no mistake.  The Democrats are poised and ready to defeat the violations with quick and painless revision and voting.  They are not prepared to let a couple of angry tea-partiers or some determined GOP representatives to stop this legislation from moving forward.  They’ve already proven their willingness to adapt by defeating the 29 other provisions that the Republicans laid before them.  They also managed to keep the bill from going back to committee, which would have ultimately killed the whole kit and caboodle.  These have just been simple stalling measures, just like the ones they used to shut down committee hearings for two straight days in a row.  This one is really bothersome to some members of Congress who actually believe that they are there to get some work done.  Several committee members, all of which have absolutely nothing to do with the healthcare dilemma have been extremely outspoken on the use of the delaying tactic, claiming that “National Security cannot be held hostage to disagreements over a healthcare policy.”  Well said.  The GOP responded with a little finger pointing of their own, however, citing that the Democrats “started it” by closing hearings to attend the reform bill signing ceremony.  Tsk tsk.  Looks like our lawmakers need a little time out. 

The main difference between those provisions and the ones that are being considered now is policy.  The two objectionable provisions refer to items that related to higher education.  Yes, folks.  You read that correctly.  Higher education provisions in a healthcare bill.   There is so much we haven’t heard about yet that it’s scary!   Without telling us what they are, the Senate GOP are requiring that these provisions be removed from the bill completely-no revision required.  This will require a new vote. 

The House is actually expected to vote on the new bill as early as tomorrow in order to get this junk squared away before Spring Break (at least these guys are more considerate that the writers of LOST.  They won’t leave me hanging for a week!)    The spokesman for Harry Reid, House Majority Leader, says that he doesn’t think that this will be a showstopper and that they are ready to take it on. 

But here’s where things get really interesting.  Beyond all the name-calling and finger-pointing, there really seems to be an issue with the so-called “fixes” bill that the House of Representatives approved along with the healthcare reform bill.  It seems as though the Senate Democrats along with President Obama may have identified some portions of the fixes bill that actually violates some portions of the legislative process.  Interesting.

The Finance Chairman from Montana has confirmed that there may be issues, but issued a sweeping statement that indicated that they were nothing to really worry about and that they were minor issues.  But the GOP disagrees.  They have found the opportunity that they’ve been looking for.  If they raise the point of order (sorry…when they raise the point of order), the Senate parliamentarian would be the one responsible for determining its legitimacy.  If it’s deemed legitimate, the House Dems would have to come up with the 60 vote super majority in order to get it passed.  If you remember correctly, they lost this super majority when Scott Brown took the now deceased Kennedy’s spot in Massachusetts, and he, for one, is not voting “yea”. 

If the House makes any changes to the bill, it would have to go back to the Senate for a re-vote, where it will die because the Republicans can now filibuster.  Looks like no more reconciliation in their future, like the one they tried to use with the whole two-bill thing.

So, just when we think it’s done, it might just be back to the old drawing board for healthcare reform, for the Democrats to make history and for anything redeeming that might just get Mr. Obama re-elected.  And it may not be a bad thing.   

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