"Eleven months ago, I wrote you to share my expectations for the coming health reform debate. At the time, I expressed Democrats’ intention to work in good faith with Republicans, and my desire that – while we would disagree at times – we could engage in an honest discussion grounded in facts rather than fear, and focused on producing results, not playing partisan politics.
"Obviously, the opposite has happened..."
That's Harry Reid, in a letter sent to Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell yesterday. In it, Reid lays it all out. Republicans have spent the last year "mischaracterizing the health reform bill and misleading the public." The majority leader writes, "Though we have tried to engage in a serious discussion, our efforts have been met by repeatedly debunked myths and outright lies. At the same time, Republicans have resorted to extraordinary legislative maneuvers in an effort not to improve the bill, but to delay and kill it." As a result, Reid concludes that "these Republican maneuvers are rooted less in substantive policy concerns and more in a partisan desire to discredit Democrats, bolster Republicans, and protect the status quo on behalf of the insurance industry."
In the oh-so genteel chamber that is the United States Senate, this is about as close as you'll ever come to a bitch-slap. And all it is is the truth without sugar-coating. From "death panels" to "government takeover" to "socialist nightmare," Republicans have been remarkably unserious in their approach to healthcare reform. In fact, "childish" is the word that comes to my mind; the teabaggers and town hall mobs aren't about actually policy. If they were, then they'd have some sort of basis in fact -- unless all those people are quadrennial millionaires, no one's raising their taxes. The teabaggers and the town hall mobs and the birthers are about having a national right wing tantrum and holding your breath until you turn blue, because there's a Democrat in the White House. You can't have a fact-free debate. It just can't be done and it's an abuse of language to call the right's reaction to Democratic policies "debate." It's the foot-stomping, fist-waving, shrieking fit of a two-year-old refusing to eat her broccoli. As Reid describes it:
[T]he attacks on the health care bill are part of a broader pattern. As has been well documented, your caucus conspicuously shattered the record for obstruction last Congress by demanding gratuitous procedural votes on even the most non-controversial matters, and by stalling the work of the Senate despite the urgency of the serious problems facing our country. Senate Republicans are on pace to again break their own record this Congress, illustrated by Sen. Bunning’s effort to prevent the Senate from acting to extend families’ unemployment and health benefits even after those benefits had expired.
While Republicans were distorting the facts in the health care debate and inflicting delay after needless delay, millions of Americans have continued to suffer as they struggle to afford to stay healthy, stay out of bankruptcy and stay in their homes. Thousands of Americans lose their health care every day, and tens of thousands of the uninsured have lost their lives since this debate began. Meanwhile, rising health costs have contributed to a rising federal budget deficit.
So, Reid informs McConnell, reconciliation it is. For the GOP, "bipartisan" obviously means "strictly Republican policies that Democrats vote for."
"I know that many Republicans have expressed concerns with our use of the existing Senate rules, but their argument is unjustified," Reid wrote. "There is nothing unusual or extraordinary about the use of reconciliation." It seems that, if you take a gander at the Constitution, you won't find the word "filibuster." What it does say is "The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided." If sixty votes are needed to pass anything, why would the VP have to break ties? Despite Republican claims to the contrary, the framers of the Constitution clearly envisioned majority rule in the Senate. To argue anything else is to lie. This isn't some arcane parliamentary trick, some weird loophole that's being exploited, this is democracy. If you find the idea of majority rule disturbing, you might look into finding some other place to live, because this country is just lousy with it.
So take your bawling fit someplace else. In a democracy, there are winners and there are losers. You can't always win. And, when you lose, it isn't some catastrophe -- the nation isn't being destroyed -- it's just voting. If Democrats have the votes to pass this, then they will -- and they'll do it legally, ethically, and in a way that the founders intended.
All the crying and stomping of feet in the world won't change that.
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