*Although that's never stopped the Senate before
Identity politics, logical consistency, and naked self-interest might dissuade Senate Republicans from jamming up Obama's audacious nominations to the nation's second-highest court. Not that those things have stopped them before.
Nobody knows what the Supreme Court will say about the Affordable Care Act, or exactly what a decision striking down part of the law would mean for the health care system. But one thing is clear already: Just by getting this case to the high court, which resumes hearings on Tuesday, the far right wing has already won something. As recently as three years ago, the idea of an individual mandate (the requirement that most people get insurance or pay a penalty) was largely uncontroversial, not only within the Democratic Party but within the Republican Party as well.
Is there an honest constitutional argument against the individual mandate? Of course there is. The constitution is ambiguous and open to conflicting interpretations. But are the people making constitutional arguments against the mandate being honest? Count me as very skeptical. As you probably know by now, many of the conservatives in high dudgeon about the individual mandate had no problem with it when it was a staple of Republican health care proposals.
First the good news: Via The Hill, Democratic leaders are thinking seriously about reforming the filibuster: Democratic leaders in both the House and Senate are pushing for filibuster reform at the start of the new Congress next year. And now the bad news: Five Senate Democrats have said they will not support a lowering of the 60-vote bar necessary to pass legislation. Another four lawmakers say they are wary about such a change and would be hesitant to support it.
The most amazing thing happened in Washington this week: A confirmation process moved forward. It happened when Elena Kagan, President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court, appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee. There were opening statements, first by the senators and then by Kagan. Next, there were questions. Republicans frequently indicated their displeasure with Kagan; many hinted at their intention to vote against her.
One thing I've been wondering about the last few months is what exactly happened behind the scenes with Olympia Snowe and the health care negotiations. Today, her former health care adviser, William F. Pewen, has a New York Times op-ed. After reading it, I'm still wondering. Pewen blames Republicans for cynically opposing any reform for partisan reasons: Republicans rightly note that their role was minimized in four of the five Congressional committees charged with drafting the legislation.
You’ve probably never heard of Section 1312, section D, of the Senate health care reform bill, since it would affect just a few thousand people at most. But symbolically it’s among the bill’s most important provisions. And it's worth mentioning in the days before (hopefully) final congressional voting begins. The provision would require that members of Congress and their staff get insurance through the new insurance exchanges, once they are up and running.
I've been critical of Rahm Emanuel recently. But this line of attack seems a little unpersuasive: Democrats in Congress are holding White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel accountable for his part in the collapse of healthcare reform. ... The lawmaker said Emanuel misjudged the Senate by focusing on only a few Republicans, citing Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins as too narrow a pool. “In the Senate, you have to anchor in the middle and build out," said the lawmaker. “They just wanted to win," the source said of Emanuel and other White House strategists.
Remember those days of yore, when John McCain was a man who put principle over partisan politics, somebody who could be counted upon to speak the truth? John McCain doesn't. Yesterday, McCain began the Republican assault on health care reform by proposing to strip the Senate bill of its proposed $487 billion in Medicare reductions. The "unspecified" reductions, McCain said, would "directly impact the health care of citizens in this country": All of these are cuts in the obligations that we have assumed and are the rightful benefits that people have earned...