Howard Dean: Pull the plug on Senate Health Bill

Political pundits are reporting that the administration is livid over remarks made by Howard Dean, former head of the Democratic National Committee and former Vermont governor (served five terms).  Dean, a medical doctor, has fought long and hard to reform the nation’s health care system and in his home state of Vermont. On MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann show last night, Dean came out against what is happening to the Senate health care bill in full force.  Namely, to scrap the Senate version, go back to the House and get it done through reconciliation, making the four Democratic Senators who are closely tied to insurance companies irrelevant.

Our democratic process is one that we cherish.  From time to time, there are those who challenge the Constitution, the rules of engagement and more.  At the end of the day, we all hope that it is the rule of law and justice — yes, justice not fairness — that rules the day.  But the process we are seeing played out in the health care debate in the Senate is turning our stomach.

On the one hand we have the filibuster that allows a group — or an individual — to talk out a bill in order to delay or kill a vote on that bill.  What is ironic is that Senate Democrats tip the scale in their favor with just their numbers.  Were it not for four holdouts within the Democratic Senate, the health care bill would have been signed by the President by now.

On the other hand, we do have reconciliation rules in both houses.  In the Senate, reconciliation would allow a smaller “majority” to win with 51 votes instead of 60 needed to win over a filibuster.  Dean would have wanted a reconciliation vote in the Senate last week, before the scrapping of the public option and the medicare expansion out of the Senate bill.  Reconciliation in the Senate last week would have also meant that abortion language would not have been at issue since the Senate amendment offered by Nelson and Hatch was defeated.

Dean, like many other progressive-minded people, is rightfully frustrated that four people, and most especially one person — Joe Lieberman — could stand in the way of change that so many have fought for, for close to a century.  Even more frustrating and insulting is the glib manner in which Joe Lieberman presented himself yesterday, saying he thinks the bill is getting closer to something he can vote positively for. His smiles and smug appearance yesterday flys in the face of the fact that over 95 percent of Connecticut citizens disagree with him (G Polls). Perhaps Lieberman sees himself as some kind of “Kingfish” up on the hill.  The only problem is that the real Kingfish at least had a following of the people.

The President continues to urge the Senate to produce a health care bill because the status quo is not acceptable.  Once the Senate votes favorably on its bill, is there any hope of “fixing” the gaping holes left by those who represent the insurance industry?  We hope so.  Right now, the President’s polling numbers on health care reform do not look so good. People, especially in Connecticut, are upset over how the President, his administration and Senate leaders have dealt with Lieberman; they want Lieberman out.

At the end of the day, let us all try to remember that 45,000 excess deaths of working American citizens between the ages of 18 and 64 will die this year and the next and every year thereafter because they do not have access to health insurance.  If the Senate bill will not kick-in until the year 2014, the math tells a grim story.  Over the next five years, 225,000 excess deaths will occur, while Lieberman and others who oppose providing these individuals with an opportunity to live out their lives naturally, count the campaign contributions they receive from the health industry. Perhaps we should be asking opponents to health care reform what their views are on the sanctity of life.

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