Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The United States Congress At Work: Dysfunction, Datfunction & Malfunction

The dysfunctionality of the U.S. Congress is the flavor of the moment, as well it should be. How bad have things gotten?

Robert Stein
at Connecting the Dots:
With all due respect to a President who started out proposing serious reform and for too long watched it being torn apart by Congressional hacks, after the passage of this bill, the system will still work better for the health insurance industry -- and the greediest of providers -- than it does for the American people.
Jacob Hacker at The New Republic:
As weak as it is in numerous areas, the Senate bill contains three vital reforms. First, it creates a new framework . . . through which people who lack secure workplace coverage can obtain the same kind of group health insurance that workers in large companies take for granted. Second, it makes available hundreds of billions in federal help to allow people to buy coverage through exchanges and through an expanded Medicaid program. Third, it places new regulations on private insurers that, if properly enforced, will reduce insurers’ ability to discriminate. . . . These are signal achievements, and they all would have been politically unthinkable just a few years ago.
Dick Polman at American Debate:
Now that the Senate Democrats have reportedly secured the requisite 60 votes to foil a GOP filibuster and pass health care reform, the Republicans seem poised to fail in their stalwart attempt to stand athwart history and deny Americans the fundamental rights that are available in every other advanced western democracy. Surely there must be something dramatic that the Republicans can still do -- set fire to their Senate desks? call in a bomb scare? hire Joe the Plumber to flood the toilets? -- because it's clear at this point that the parliamentary options are dwindling fast.
Jonathan Chait at The Plank:
The United States is on the doorstep of comprehensive health care reform. It's a staggering achievement, about which I'll have more to say later. but the under-appreciated thing that strikes me at the moment is that it never would have happened if the Republican Party had played its cards right.
BooMan at the Booman Tribune:
The bill itself is not bad. It only looks bad when compared to what we should have done, which is either abolish the private health insurance industry or regulate it like a power or water utility. On the merits, this bill should be passed. The politics are more complicated. Would a failure to pass anything be more damaging than a bill that too many people don't like? One of the dangers of the current bill is that a lot of people won't see their benefit until 2014. Another danger is that the subsidies won't make mandated insurance affordable.
Steve Benen at Political Animal:
[W]hile filibuster abuse distorts the nature of the legislative process, the current circumstances also skew expectations -- Republicans have almost entirely excised moderates from their ranks, and voters have handed Democrats a huge majority. Whereas a 60-vote majority used to reflect widespread support for a bill, we're now told a 60-vote majority is wholly inadequate -- or in [David] Gergen's words, a "tragedy."The standard has become badly distorted. It's not the Democrats' fault Republicans have become too conservative, failed at governing, and were punished by voters. And it's certainly not Democrats' fault Republicans would rather obstruct than govern, reflexively rejecting anything the majority seeks.
Paul Krugman in The New York Times:
Nobody should meddle lightly with long-established parliamentary procedure. But our current situation is unprecedented: America is caught between severe problems that must be addressed and a minority party determined to block action on every front. Doing nothing is not an option — not unless you want the nation to sit motionless, with an effectively paralyzed government, waiting for financial, environmental and fiscal crises to strike.
Jill at Feministe:
Democrats reportedly have the votes to overcome a Republican filibuster on health care reform. Those votes, though, came with 400 pages of "compromise," which include everything from scaling back reproductive rights to a nice neat check written to the state of Nebraska to buy Ben Nelson's vote. The women's health compromise essentially kicks the issue to the states -- it keeps the Hyde Amendment intact across the board, and allows states to scale back abortion coverage even further if they choose. It's better than Stupak, but it still really, really sucks.
Dr. Timothy Jost at Health Affairs:
Once it is adopted, the Senate bill will have to be reconciled with the House bill. While the insurance provisions of the Senate bill have real strengths -- their transparency provisions for example -- the bill also has, from my perspective, great weaknesses. The two most significant, I believe, are its four-year delay in implementation date and its dependence on the states to enact and enforce the federal reforms.
David Frum at Frum Forum:
It would be premature to say conservatives have lost this fight. There's still hope. But it grows faint . . . and our own miscalculations explain much of why.
Allahpundit at Hot Air:
If Obamacare, on its own terms or as implicated in approaching fiscal catastrophe, remains anywhere near as unpopular over the coming years as it is now, there is no fundamental reason why it can’t be rescinded -- piece by piece or all at once. I therefore remain convinced that the proper response by conservatives to its passage cannot and must not be despair -- certainly not yet, certainly not while a popular wave against the prime perpetrators is rising, and not while the tools of democratic self-government are still within reach.
Alex Pareene at Gawker:
It is nice, really, to have billions of dollar for uninsured people to afford insurance, and the new regulations are long overdue. But christ, the country is pretty broken, right? 2010 is going to be fun! There will be like three more of these year-long soul-destroying battles over every little thing!
Images by Hieronymous Bosch (1450-1516)

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