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'Niceguy' Eddie

Political Talk Show Host and Internet Radio Personality. My show, In My Humble Opinion, aired on RainbowRadio from 2015-2017.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

WHAT sixty votes?

I’d like to thank the newly minted Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown for supporting the Democratic Senate’s Jobs Bill, breaking ranks along with two of the usual suspects, Maine’s Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins and also Missouri’s Kit Bond and Ohio’s George Voinovich, two guys who, since they’re retiring, have nothing to lose and I guess figured that they may as well help actually govern the country a little instead of following the Party strategy of making sure that absolutely nothing good happens, public interest be damned. So to those five: Thank You. To our spineless leader, Harry Reid? Gee, you got four more votes than you actually needed. You think maybe you didn’t have to gut the bill to quite the extent that you did?

There is one thing I want to point out however, in DEFENSE of Reid. A lot has been made of the whole 60-votes thing. And I said awhile back that I didn’t think Brown’s election really changed anything. I’ll stand by that, and here’s why: The Democrats NEVER HAD 60 votes! And by that I don’t mean that the Blue Dogs weren’t on board, or they didn’t have enough party unity, or anything like that. I mean that at no point were there ever actually 60 Democrats in the Senate! Check it out…

Here’s the timeline: In January, 2009, the numbers in the Senate were officially 59 Democrats to 41 Republicans. That's how the 2008 election worked out, if you remember. And don’t forget: The Minnesota Governor refused to seat Al Franken. So really, they started out 58-41, with one open seat, by the official party count. Now… on April 28, 2009, Arlen Specter switched parties. This brought the tally to 59-40 in favor of the Democrats, but Franken still wasn’t seated, so no 60 votes. Finally, on July 7, 2009 Franken was seated. And the tally was 60-40… for 49 days, until Senator Kennedy died on August 25. So… they had “60 Votes” for all of seven weeks, and that’s before you take into account that the ailing Senator Kennedy hadn’t been present for a vote in the Senate since summer of 2008 – a full year before his death. By any practical measure, the numbers in the Senate were never better than 59-40, even with Franken seated and after Specter defected. At no point did the Democrats ever NOT need at least one Republican vote to reach cloture. And now, with Brown’s election? Well, the numbers are 59-41, and they need… ding-ding-ding!: ONE REPUBLICAN VOTE, just as they always have, to achieve cloture.

And they just got FIVE. So I still like our chances, moving forward.


And BTW, I sincerely hope that President Obama does to the obstructing Republicans what President Bush did to US so many times, and just makes recess appointments for every single remaining unmanned post that the Republicans continue to block nominees for. The Right are doing their best to make sure that the Democrats never have a chance to accomplish anything. Well, they had their chance, and it’s high time that Obama leads the Democrats and they show the country what GOOD Government is really capable of.


  1. I've been making this very point in another venue in recent days, arguing with a very smug conservative who was offering his parties' line about the Democrats being able to pass anything they want without a single Republican vote. He conceded the long Franken delay, but kept right on repeating that line, even when I broke it down for him.

    You should also make mention of the two Senate independents. Bernie Sanders is a de facto Democrat, so it isn't really inappropriate to count him as a "Democratic vote," but Joe Lieberman is a de facto Republican who is, nonetheless, always included on the Democratic side of the ledger in such counts.

    In my own scribblings on these matters, I've been arguing for Obama and the Democrats to go around, go through, run over the Republicans since before Obama was sworn in. It was entirely predictable what would happen if he didn't (I could use my blog entries from the past year as a resume if I ever wanted to go into the prophet business). His "can't we all just get along"-ism resulted in his first year in office being entirely wasted, and, with three more years to go, has left him crippled.

    I honestly don't see it getting any better, either. Obama is still pimping "his" health care bill, which is actually a Republican bill (before he put his support behind it and they abandoned it). In its present form, all genuine reform has been stripped from it. Not only is it NOT worth passing; it will actually make the current very bad situation infinitely worse. The Senate had, depending on some provisions, 52-54 votes for passing a much better (if still far less than great) bill, but that 60 vote thing has perverted it into a monstrosity that just needs to die. If, as is being suggested at present, the Democrats are going to use reconciliation to pass something, it needs to look like the House bill, not the Senate nightmare that was watered down, watered down, watered down to try to get Republicans and right-wing Democrats to sign on to it. Instead, it looks as if the Demos are going to do the opposite, and go with the Senate bill. Once it kicks in, they'll be lucky if they can elect someone dog-catcher.

  2. I'm not familiar enough with the Senate version of the health bill to comment too specifically. There's still some good, and necessary stuff, in there - no preexsisting, for exmple - but 'big picture' I certainly don't like the individual mandate, without a public option to keep them honest. The individual mandate IS necessary for any system to work, but without the kind of risk pooling, like what I described in my own 'ideal' health care system, it's will only increase demand for a for-profit product, which will in turn only increase the cost. I don't know if I'd rather nothing be done or that it makes a bad situation worse, but it's sure as hell not going to be the end of the issue. It certainly doesn't solve anything with any finality or in any lasting sense.

    But I agree that the Dem's are pissing away they're big opportunity here. The Right Wing culture is now firmly entrenched in our media and the public consciousness, and we'll be right back to it before you can say "filibuster." And THAT'S exactly why I was so sore at Ralph Nader a few posts back - a Gore presidency could have been a real game-changer. The whole landscape could be completely different now. Instead the Dem's have an uphill climb, and they act like they either don't realize that, or don't realize that they do in fact have the tools necessary to climb it.

  3. The Senate bill is shorn of any "public option," which was the cost-control mechanism in this version of "reform." Forcing millions of new customers to purchase private health insurance as a means of solving the crisis is no different than solving the homelessness problem by passing a law that requires everyone to own a home.

    The theory is that the influx of these new customers will result in lower costs, by spreading around the risk. There is, however, absolutely no reason to assume it will do anything other than force people to buy already-too-expensive insurance that will continue to escalate in cost, with nothing in place to prevent it. The Senate even removed the House provisions barring open collusion and price-fixing by the insurance companies.

    It's pointless to eliminate pre-existing conditions (which the Senate bill does) if the companies are allowed to charge those with such conditions extortionate rates (which the Senate bill allows).

    Perhaps worst of all, the Senate bill makes it much more difficult to ever attempt any real reform. It offers modest government subsidies to those without insurance. These subsidies--not modest at all, when bundled together--go right to the insurance companies. The insurance companies are then able to purchase even more legislators in order to make sure those subsidies keep coming, and any future effort at real reform is defeated. This corrupt triangle is quite a deal: we end up subsidizing our own demise.

    For these and many other reasons, it makes everything worse. Given its pedigree (it was actually a Republican bill Obama and the Democrats adopted as their own), this shouldn't be too surprising. Doing nothing at all would be better than passing this.

    From an entirely personal perspective, the House bill would have allowed me to have health insurance for the first time in a good many years. All the Senate bill will do for me is stick me with a new tax penalty I can't afford to pay.

    It's just mind-boggling to me the opportunity the Democrats pissed away in the last year. They surged into office after the long, long 2008 campaign with a huge majority in congress, an extraordinarily popular president who had just destroyed his competition in the election, and Republicans were becoming so reviled that public identification with the party hit an historic low. They could have done anything they wanted.

    I saw it coming just after Obama's election. He'd just crushed Hillary Clinton in the long, long primary campaign, beaten back McCain in the primary, and beat both of them by running to their left and hanging their affinity for George Bush around their necks. Then, he announces his foreign policy team, and it's Hillary Clinton, the McCain campaign's national security adviser, and Bush's Secretary of Defense. It was as if the election never even happened, and it was emblematic of everything that followed.

    But I'm wandering afield, so I'll stop.