At this point, it's pretty clear that Republicans are irrelevant to the healthcare reform effort. Of all the Republicans in the house and senate, efforts are being made to work with only one -- Maine Senator Olympia Snowe. Not that they're needed to bring efforts to a near-standstill. The more conservative Blue Dog Democrats are doing a fine job of that themselves.
Still, Republicans need to appear to be doing something, despite the fact that they're not. The position that the current system is unsustainable and needs to be changed is the consensus position, yet Republicans -- in their secret heart of hearts -- are the primary defenders of the status quo. That might be by default or that might be by design. In practice, the distinction is meaningless since the outcome would be the same -- nothing happens. Relatively toothless, the GOP can't stop reform, but they can slow it down and give the Blue Dogs a chance to do their dirty work for them by demanding that the final bill be as industry-friendly and consumer-exploitative as possible.
To that end, they've been spending a lot of their time wasting everyone else's time. Even now, the delaying tactics continue. We've been waiting for a final bill from the Senate Finance Committee to move forward. This is Max Baucus's seriously awful bill. But it's not seriously awful enough, apparently, so Think Progress reports that GOP committee members are offering BS amendments to further delay progress.
In all, members have offered 534 amendments to Baucus's bill. Given the deeply flawed nature of the draft, it shouldn't surprise anyone that a lot of these amendments come from dems seeking to patch holes. According to TP, these include "provisions re-instating the public insurance option, striking the network of consumer-driven cooperatives, expanding Medicare to Americans aged 54 to 65, and improving affordability standards."
It's the Republican amendments that are crazy or off-topic. The poster-child for these baloney amendments is Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch's "Hatch F7" amendment [PDF], which would "add transition relief for the excise tax on high cost insurance plans for any State with a name the begins with the letter 'U'."
Ensign 409 calls for "Transparency in Czars," Hatch 511 "Prohibits authorized or appropriated federal funds under the Mark from being distributed to or used by ACORN," Roberts 144 was introduced "To ensure that if people like the hometown hospital they have, they can keep it."
This is all delaying the inevitable. A bill will come out of that committee and the final legislation sent to the president will look nothing like Baucus's nightmare of a bill. Step by step, this is moving forward -- the GOP is just making sure each step includes a lot of footdragging. As they have been all along.
After President Obama's address to a joint session of congress, the big news was that Rep. Joe Wilson called the president a liar. But many observers wondered what those papers were that Republicans kept waving around. Turns out it was the Republican answer to an argument Obama never made.
Rep. Tom Price, the Georgia Republican who heads the House GOP Study Committee, came to President Obama's Sept. 9 speech to a joint session of Congress itching to make a point. Price, who also happens to be an orthopedic surgeon, has often heard the president accuse Republicans of criticizing Democratic healthcare proposals while having no plans of their own. He expected Obama to do the same Wednesday night.
"We knew the president would at some point say something like, 'And the other side has no ideas,"' Price says. So Price and his Republican colleagues brought with them copies of the more than 30 healthcare-reform bills they have proposed in the House this year.
Obama didn't directly accuse Republicans of not having a plan. But he did say he would welcome "serious" healthcare proposals. "My door is always open," Obama said.
That's when Price held up the sheaf of papers he was carrying -- a copy of HR 3400, the Empowering Patients First Act, which Price and the Republican Study Committee proposed in July. Other GOP lawmakers held up their own bills. Some raised a list of all the healthcare bills -- there are more than 30 -- proposed by members of the Study Committee.
Ha! In your face, Obama! No one can say they don't have any ideas, because they have a whole bunch of them. Of course, not a single one of these has the support of the party. If you want to say there isn't a Republican bill, you can go ahead and do that. It's still true enough. None of these proposals is the official party proposal -- mostly because there isn't one. These are just a bunch of timewasters proposed by GOPers to slow the process down.
At a forum hosted by Virginia's Richmond Times-Dispatch, Eric Cantor -- House Republican whip -- and Rep. Robert "Bobby" Scott discussed healthcare reform and Cantor made a startling admission that nearly everyone missed; Republicans have jack.
Richmond resident Ben Ragsdale demanded to know how Republicans were going to expand access to healthcare if they have only a four-page list of bullet-points as their plan.
“What is your substantive proposal to meet these real everyday problems that people have? Where’s the beef?” Ragsdale asked, triggering applause from the crowd.
The telegenic GOP lawmaker said Republicans and Democrats agree on 80 percent of fixing the nation’s healthcare system, but could not show the crowd a detailed plan that has been endorsed by House Republicans.
Cantor earlier this year said House Republican leaders would release an alternative healthcare plan, but have not done so yet. House Republicans have introduced several different health bills, as opposed to one concrete alternative.
More than 30 bills and they can't bang out some plausible alternative. Why? A couple of reasons; first and foremost, they don't want to. Homer Simpson once said that trying is just the first step in failing. If the GOP puts out a bill, they also put out a target. It's much safer just to say, "We've got lots of ideas," without getting too concrete about what those ideas actually are. If you actually do something, you run the risk of having someone look at it. They learned that lesson when they put out a "budget alternative" with no actual numbers in it. If you don't have anything, you don't put out anything -- you just wave a random collection of proposals around.
Second is that they don't need to. They seem to like things fine the way they are, but they know you don't. So they need to look like they're doing something, while they're actually doing nothing.
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