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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Preview of Coming Distractions

If you are really, really into health care reform, you should definitely check out the remarkably exhaustive summary done by Igor Volsky at ThinkProgress’ Wonk Room about the vast number of amendments to the Baucus bill being offered in the Senate Finance Committee. Volsky organizes them by subject-area, and as “helpful,” “dubious” or “political.”
Overall, Democratic amendments, as you might imagine, are aimed at pushing the Baucus proposal in the direction of what we’ve seen from the House and from the Senate HELP committee. Republican amendments generally represent efforts to unravel the Baucus proposal by eliminating essential elements such as the individual mandate and Medicaid expansion, or to promote longstanding conservative hobbyhorses like medical malpractice “reform” or preemption of state insurance regulations. There’s also a lot of extraneous crap about ACORN and “rationing” and so forth that is pure posturing.
Only a few of these amendments from either side are likely to have a big impact on what the Finance Committee actually produces. A couple of Democratic amendments aim at paring back the excise tax that Baucus uses as his main financing vehicle in order to reduce middle-class exposure, which is a big deal politically. And Sen. Snowe tossed in her “triggered public option,” which could wind up being the linchpin for ultimate congressional approval of health care reform, though perhaps at a later date.
But what you are mainly seeing here, particularly from Republicans, is a preview of what we will be hearing on the Senate floor. It’s a reminder of how long this process is likely to take, and why either cloture or reconciliation will be necessary to get to a final vote. Since Republicans are also prepared to offer long lists of points of order against proceeding on health reform via reconciliation before the debate time limits kick in, even that route won’t necessarily produce anything like a brisk floor debate. We’re going to be talking about health care reform well into this year’s pared-back Xmas shopping season.

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