You are browsing the archive for Martha Coakley.

Weekly Pulse: Obama to Push for Reconciliation

9:20 am in Uncategorized by TheMediaConsortium

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Today, President Barack Obama will deliver a speech to Congress outlining his plan to move forward on health care reform. The president is expected to advocate the use of budget reconciliation.

Art Levine of Working In These Times warns that some centrist Democrats are already getting cold feet on reconciliation. Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND), chair of the Senate Budget Committee, went on TV to declare reconciliation impossible. These guys just don’t get it. It’s reconciliation or defeat. There is no other way. Without reconciliation, the bill dies. Without a bill, the Democrats get massacred in the mid-term elections.

Health care reform to date

Quick recap: The House and the Senate have both passed health care reform bills. The original plan was to merge those two bills in a conference committee and send the final version back to both houses of Congress for a vote. However, the Democrats lost their filibuster-proof majority in the Senate when Republican Scott Brown defeated Martha Coakley in the special election in Massachusetts.

Once they recovered from their shell shock, Democrats reluctantly converged around Plan B: Let the House re-pass the Senate version of the bill, thereby skipping the step where the Senate votes on the conference report. However, the Senate bill could not pass the House in its current form. So, the Senate needs to tweak the bill to make it acceptable to the House—either before or after the House re-passes the Senate bill. In order to make those changes without getting filibustered, the Senate Democrats will have to insert the modifications through budget reconciliation, where measures pass by a simple majority. Whew!

Of course, the Republicans trying to paint Democrats as tyrants for using reconciliation. Nevermind that 16 of the 22 reconciliation bills passed since reconciliation was invented in 1974 were passed by Republican majorities.

Whither the Public Option?

Reconciliation would appear to give the public health insurance option a new lease on life. The House bill has a public option, but the Senate bill doesn’t. The public option was traded away on the Senate side to forge the original filibuster-proof majority. As a procedural matter, the public option could easily be reinserted during reconciliation because it has such a direct impact on the federal budget, i.e., it would save the taxpayer a lot of money. The White House claims to support a public option. Yet Obama didn’t propose one in his health care plan last week.

Some observers take that as a sign that the White House doesn’t think the votes are there. (Cynics say it’s proof the White House never cared about the public option in the first place.) Even Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) told radio host Ed Schultz that he can’t support a public option for fear of killing the health care bill, according to Jason Hancock of the Iowa Independent. Harkin has been taking a lot of heat from progressives for refusing to join with other senators in signing a letter calling for a public option.

Abortion Storm Clouds

Speaker Nancy Pelosi had little to say about how she plans to overcome resistance within her own caucus on abortion and immigration issues within health reform, as Brian Beutler reports for TPMDC. Pelosi needs 216 votes to pass a bill. The original House bill only passed by 5 votes. Rabid anti-choice Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) claims to have assembled a coalition of like-minded Dems who consider the Senate’s slightly less restrictive rules for abortion funding "unacceptable." There is no reliable public vote count on how many of these representatives, if any, would vote to kill health care over abortion. If they do, it would be purely out of spite. Abortion language can’t be tweaked in reconciliation because it doesn’t directly affect the budget.

Stupak and the myth of federal funding for abortions

In The Nation, Jessica Arons takes a closer look at Stupak’s radical and misleading anti-choice rhetoric. The federal government is already legally barred from funding elective abortions, and nothing in the Senate bill would change that. Arons explains that the Senate bill would allow plans that participate in the federally-subsidized exchanges to offer abortion coverage provided that customers buy that coverage with their own money, not with subsidized federal dollars. If the government pays 30% of the cost of the policy and the consumer pays 60%, the money for abortion coverage comes out of the consumer’s end.

There’s a long tradition of segregating government money. Both Planned Parenthood and Catholic hospitals get federal funds. By law, Planned Parenthood can’t use that money to perform abortions, but it can use it to do pap smears and offer other health care. By the same token, a Catholic hospital can take federal money to provide medical care, but not to proselytize to patients. Arons ably satirizes Stupak’s extreme position:

If everyone thought like Bart Stupak, a woman seeking an abortion:

(1) would not be able to take a public bus or commuter train to an abortion clinic, even if she paid her own fare;

(2) would not be able to drive on public roads to a clinic, even if she drove her own car and paid for her own gas;

(3) would not be able to walk on public sidewalks to the clinic, even though she paid property taxes;

(4) would not be able to put her child in childcare while she was at the clinic if she received a tax credit that offset the cost of childcare;

(5) would not be able to take medicine at the clinic that was researched or developed by the government, even if she paid for the medicine herself.

Bunning backs down

In other health care news, AlterNet reports that yesterday Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) ended his one-man filibuster of the extension of a bill that would have prevented a 21% cut in Medicare reimbursement rates and extended unemployment benefits while the Senate finalizes the jobs bill. Bunning caved under pressure from his own party. Even Republicans realized that there was no political percentage in stiffing doctors and the unemployed.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Weekly Diaspora: Does Coakley’s Loss Spell Trouble for Immigration Reform?

9:25 am in Media by TheMediaConsortium

By Nezua, Media Consortium Blogger

Professional pundits and Democratic politicians are in a frenzy over what Martha Coakley’s senate seat loss to Republican Scott Brown might mean for American politics.

Immigration reform in jeopardy

As Harold Meyerson of the American Prospect reports, the loss of one seat probably won’t derail heath care reform, but it does make the chances of passing immigration reform slimmer. Meyerson writes that immigration reform is "necessary to restore our economic vitality and political equality," and actually passing reform would benefit the Democratic faction. Unfortunately, that means that immigration reform will require 60 votes in order to pass the senate.

The Texas Observer‘s Melissa del Bosque writes about the slim chances of immigration reform passing in 2010. According to Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX), a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, a 2011 target date is "probably more realistic." del Bosque refuses to lose hope, reminding us that Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) has assured the public that "the Obama administration promised to bring up the issue in 2010." Of course, bringing up an issue and actually passing reform are two very different animals.

Holding on to hope for 2010

In her daily roundup of Spanish-language media, Erin Rosa of Campus Progress also urges a positive outlook "despite the reorganization of the Senate." Rosa relays that Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) assured the media during a telephone conference that President Obama "remembers his promise well." While "most latinos" interviewed are impatient, they hold on to hope that 2010 is the year for reform.

TPS for Haitians

Haitian undocumented that are currently within U.S. borders will be given Temporary Protected Status (TPS), as Julianne Hing reports for RaceWire. The decision only applies to Haitian immigrants in the U.S. prior to January 12, 2010. Hing observes that it is unfortunate that it took "a disaster of this magnitude" to inspire the White House to offer TPS to Haitian immigrants, though it is "a great relief."

What will the recently granted TPS status mean for Haitians that are already in deportation proceedings? Such is the case of Haitian immigrant Jean Montrevil, asAarti Shahani reports for New America Media. Montrevil came to the U.S. on a green card in 1986 to "make it big," but in his efforts, "got stupid," and caught up in selling drugs from his taxi cab. That was 20 years ago, and Montrevil has served 11 years in prison to pay for his errors. Montrevil is now a father of four and a community leader. The Department of Homeland Security considers his prison time proper cause to deport him. Many others feel he has done his time, and is a positively contributing member of our society. Democracy Now! also covered Montrevil’s story recently, as noted in the Jan. 7 Diaspora.

Invisible to the first world

Why are countries like Haiti mostly invisible to first world nations like the U.S. until catastrophe strikes? Leonardo Padura asks, before the earthquake, "Who talked about Haiti?" for IPS News. Haiti desperately needs the emergency aid so generously given today, but the country has needed help for a long time. "Let us hope that tomorrow, when the tragedy no longer dominates the headlines, and the dead are buried," writes Padura, "we will not forget Haiti exists…."

Disappointingly, "U.S. corporations, private mercenaries, Washington and the International Monetary Fund" are remembering Haiti in a rather cruel and opportunist fashion, as Benjamin Dangl reports for AlterNet. At a time of crisis and great human need, Washington D.C. is "promoting unpopular economic policies and extending military and economic control over the Haitian people." This is disturbing, as a long history of economic exploitation helped render the country vulnerable to disaster. The recent earthquake has claimed roughly 200,000 lives so far.

Haiti in context

While borders and border cities bear the brunt of blame when migrants move, the cure won’t be found in bigger bails of barbed wire, or harsh enforcement tactics that deny escape from economic desperation or dangerous conditions.

Jocelyn Barnes, reporting for The Nation, provides a much needed contextualization of Haiti. There are many related factors that weakened and harmed Haiti’s ability to thrive, not the least of which have been storms and earthquakes. But the privatization of Haiti’s infrastructure—which was "championed" by current envoy to Haiti in charge of "leading the quake assistance brigade" former president Bill Clinton—have definitely been instrumental in the country’s fate.

Marching against Arpaio

Finally, given the recent holiday celebrating the life and efforts of civil rights hero Martin Luther King, Jr., we would be remiss in overlooking the January 16 march in Arizona protesting Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The event was organized by Salvador Reza, a respected Mexican American activist and community organizer in Arizona. Musician Linda Ronstadt, Co-Founder of United Farm Workers Dolores Huerta, and approximately 5,000 people marched from a park to Tent City, the name for the sheriff’s makeshift detention center.

Arpaio is reviled by many in the Latino and undocumented community for his methods of racial profiling and humiliating treatment of detainees. Recently, Arpaio was compared to Bull Connor by an ad published in in the Arizona Republic by 60 black leaders and the Center for New Community.

King’s vision was large and led to new horizons; it cannot possibly be contained to one era, or one day on a calendar. The struggle continues, every day, everywhere.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Diaspora for a complete list of articles on immigration issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, and health care issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Pulse. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Weekly Pulse: What Does Coakley’s Defeat Mean for Health Care Reform?

9:32 am in Uncategorized by TheMediaConsortium

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium Blogger

What Will Coakley’s Defeat Mean for Health Care Reform?

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium Blogger

Last night, Republican Scott Brown defeated Democrat Martha Coakley in the special election to fill Teddy Kennedy’s senate seat in Massachusetts. Coakley’s loss puts health care reform in jeopardy.

With Coakley’s defeat, the Democrats lose their filibuster-proof 60-seat majority in the Senate. However, as Paul Waldman explains in The American Prospect, Coakley’s loss is not the end for health care reform.

Remember, the Senate already passed its health care reform bill in December. Now, the House has to pass its version of the bill. The original plan was for House and Senate leaders to blend the two bills together in conference to create a final piece of legislation (AKA a conference report) that both houses would vote on. Once the Democrats are down to 59 votes, the Republicans can filibuster the conference report and kill health care reform.

But if the House passes the same bill the Senate just passed, there’s no need to reconcile the two bills. This so-called "ping pong" approach may be the best way to salvage health care reform. Some of the flaws in the Senate bill could still be fixed later through budget reconciliation. It would be an uphill battle, but nothing compared to starting health care reform from scratch.

The second option would be to get the bill done before Scott Brown is sworn in. According to Waldman, there could be a vote within 10 days. The House and Senate have already drafted some compromise legislation, which Waldman thinks is superior to the straight Senate bill. If that language were sent to the Congressional Budget Office immediately, the Senate could vote before Brown is sworn in.

Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said in a statement last night that Brown won’t be sworn in until the election results are certified, a process that could take two weeks. Historically, the winners of special Senate elections have taken over from their interim predecessors within a couple of days. If the Republicans were in this position, they’d use every procedural means at their disposal to drag out the process. The question is whether the Democrats have the fortitude to make the system work for them.

Remember how the Republicans did everything in their power to hold up the Senate health care vote, including forcing the clerk to read the 767-page bill aloud? They were trying to delay the vote until after the Massachusetts special election. If it’s okay for the GOP to stall, the Democrats should be allowed to drag their feet on swearing in Brown.

Also, remember how the Republicans fought to keep Al Franken from being seated after he defeated Norm Coleman? For his part, Franken says he’s determined to pass health care reform one way or another, according to Rachel Slajda of Talking Points Memo.

Incongruously, some Democrats are arguing that rushing to a vote would be a violation of some vague democratic principle. Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) wasted no time in proclaiming that there should be no vote before Brown was sworn in. Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), of all people, averred last night that the Democrats should respect the democratic process and start acting like they have 59 votes while they still have 60.

All this talk of "respecting the process" is hand waving disguised as civics. According to the process, Scott Brown isn’t the senator from Massachusetts yet. According to the process, you have the votes until you don’t.

Talk about moving the goalposts. It’s bad enough that we need 60 votes to pass a bill on any given day. Now, they’d have us believe that we also need 60 votes next week. Webb and Frank are arguing that Brown’s victory obliges Democrats to behave as if Brown were already the Senator from Massachusetts. Of course, if Webb won’t play ball, it’s a moot point. The whole fast-track strategy is predicated on 60 votes. Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly thinks that Webb effectively took the fast-track option off the table with his strongly worded statement.

Katrina vanden Huevel of The Nation argues that this historic upset should be a wake up call to President Barack Obama to embrace populism with renewed fervor. I would add that Obama was elected on a platform of hope and change. There is no better way to fulfill a promise of change than to reshape the nation’s health care system and provide insurance for millions of Americans.

Ping pong, anyone?

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Weekly Audit: Why Accountability Matters

7:33 am in Uncategorized by TheMediaConsortium

by Zach Carter, Media Consortium MediaWire Blogger

With workers all over the globe trudging through a catastrophic recession, it’s almost a given that governments will be battling the economic slide for a long time. Part of the effort to rebuild must involve new rules and regulations, but meaningful systems for economic accountability will be just as essential. If we do not hold the reckless executives who caused this crisis accountable for their actions, we risk regressing into similar turmoil in the near future.

We all know that times are tough, and almost all of us agree on the cause: A massive Wall Street risk-binge combined with an almost total failure of regulatory oversight. It’s surprising that few meaningful criminal charges have been filed amid what may very well be the worst financial crisis in history. Bernie Madoff will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars, but the subprime mortgage brokers who specialized in predatory loans–and the Wall Street banks that bought them–have yet to face consequences in court.

In The American Prospect, Tim Fernholz details the efforts of some state-level officials to investigate and punish white-collar crime at the nation’s largest financial firms. Much Read the rest of this entry →