It's come down to these six senators. The House has reported a bill as has another Senate committee, but all eyes are fixed on Senate Finance -- and on these three Dems and three Republicans, in particular. But who, exactly, anointed these six to decide the fate of the nation's health care?Excellent question. Last time I checked, there were sixty Democrats in the Senate and Barack Obama was still President. America has rejected Republican rule wholesale. But somehow, Chuck Grassley is running health care.
I don't get it. Of the three Republicans in the gang, the senior senator is Charles Grassley. In recent weeks Grassley has refused to debunk the rumor that the House's health-care bill will spawn "death panels," empowered to decide whether the sick and old get to live or die. At an Iowa town meeting last Tuesday Grassley called the President and Speaker Nancy Pelosi "intellectually dishonest" for claiming the opposite. On Thursday Grassley told the Washington Post that Congress should scale back its efforts to overhaul health care in the wake of intense anger at town hall meetings. But -- wait -- the anger is largely about distortions such as the "death panels" that Grassley refuses to debunk.
This week on Fox News Grassley termed the House bill "the Pelosi Bill," and called it "a government takeover of heath care, exploding the deficit because it's not paid for and it's got high taxes in it."
I really don't get it. We have a Democratic president in the White House. Democrats control sixty votes in the Senate, enough to overcome a filibuster. It is possible to pass health care legislation through the Senate with 51 votes (that's what George W. Bush did with his tax cut plan). Democrats control the House. The Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, is a tough lady. She has said there will be no health care reform bill without a public option.
So why does the fate of health care rest in Grassley's hands?
What kind of things does Grassley want in his bill?
Before they left Washington for the August recess, the Finance group, known as the "Gang of Six," had crafted the outlines of a package that trimmed more than $100 billion from the House price tag and jettisoned a government-run insurance option, which has become a rallying cry for many liberals but is opposed by Republicans. The senators also were looking to provide insurance subsidies to a smaller, less affluent group than the House bill would.In other words, the final Preisdent Grassley plan is nothing more than a huge gift to private insurance companies. Is that something Republicans can get behind in order to get a major bipartisan bill passed?
After meeting via teleconference for more than an hour late Thursday, the Senate group is now looking to go further. They support a requirement that all individuals carry health insurance, but they are considering creating a bare-bones insurance policy that would be easier for people to afford without government help. They are also talking about further reducing the number of people eligible for subsidies, said an aide familiar with the talks.
But this week, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), indicated that he would have trouble supporting even those measures, saying states that had experimented with insurance reforms had seen "fairly disastrous consequences," including much higher premiums for people who already had coverage.Of course not. Republicans aren't even going to vote for the Grassley plan. Why should they? It's the worst of all worlds: a plan that mandates 50 million additional people be covered, but makes no effort to make that insurance comprehensive or affordable. What it will do is it will force tens of millions of people to underinsure, to purchase health insurance with massive deductibles that will only cover a fraction of costs, making the insurance giants hundreds of billions of dollars. We need a public option because there is no competition in health care plans as it is now. The Grassley plan will make them all the more richer. Health care premiums are expected to double by 2020 without real reform.
Kyl also shot down the notion that controlling the cost of the package might help. "There's no way Republicans are going to support a trillion-dollar-plus bill," Kyl said. "And when the chairman of the Finance Committee in the Senate said, 'Ah, great success, I think we've got it under a trillion dollars,' you didn't hear a lot of applause from Republicans."
Republicans are trying to kill the bill by watering it down so badly that it will crash, and then they will be able to fully blame the Dems for it failing to pass. The White House is going along 100%, seemingly oblivious to the plan.
Again, when did Chuck Grassley end up America's leader, and why is the President allowing him to take the lead on health care when the GOP has no interest in seeing any bill pass?