Sunday, November 22, 2009

Health Reform, Gallows Humor, and the Louisana Purchase

November 22 - The Senate voted last night, 60-39, on a strictly party line vote, to bring the health care debate to the Senate floor, thereby nipping a Republican filibuster in the bud. The debate will start after the Thanksgiving holiday and run through December, perhaps even into the New Year.

The opening of the debate is a serious matter, making the first time health reform has reached this point in the history of the Republic.

• Democrats are deadly serious and regard the whole matter as an historic event. Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana and chief architect of the legislation, declared, “Tonight we have the opportunity, the historic opportunity to reform health care once and for all. History is knocking on the door. Let’s open it. Let’s begin the debate.”

• The Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, was eqaully serious. He declared, “The battle has just begun.” He warned of massive deficits, intrusuve government-run health care, and Medicare gutting.

I’m surprised McConnell did not quote Winston Churchill, who so famously said, “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

Maybe, at such a serious juncture in the health debate, said by Democrats to be a historic moral imperative and by Republicans a horrid economic disaster, it is time for a little graveyard humor.

Dana Milbank, a Washington Post columnist , supplies this humor in a November 22 column, “Sweeteners for the South.”

“Staffers on Capitol Hill were calling it the Louisiana Purchase. “

“On the eve of Saturday's showdown in the Senate over health-care reform, Democratic leaders still hadn't secured the support of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), one of the 60votes needed to keep the legislation alive. The wavering lawmaker was offered a sweetener: at least $100 million in extra federal money for her home state.”

“And so it came to pass that Landrieu walked onto the Senate floor midafternoon Saturday to announce her aye vote -- and to trumpet the financial "fix" she had arranged for Louisiana. "I am not going to be defensive," she declared. ‘And it's not a $100 million fix. It's a $300 million fix.’"

Dana went on to explain how Senator Reid has also purchased the vote of Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and other Democratic Senators, lest they stray from the party line,

“Landrieu and Lincoln got the attention because they were the last to decide, but the Senate really has 100 Blanche DuBoises, a full house of characters inclined toward the narcissistic. The health-care debate was worse than most. With all 40 Republicans in lockstep opposition, all 60 members of the Democratic caucus had to vote yes -- and that gave each one an opportunity to extract concessions from Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid.”

Dana concludes:” By the time this thing is done, the millions for Louisiana will look like a bargain.”

For those of you out there who are unfamiliar with the Louisiana Purchase, in 1803 the United States paid France $15 million dollars for over 800,000 square miles of land, more than doubling the size of the United States. This land deal was the greatest achievement of Thomas Jefferson's presidency.

Similarly health care deals struck with wavering Senate Democrats, like the $300 million for the Landrieu vote, may be the greatest achievement of Barack Obama’s presidency. In this case, Obama hopes to more than double the size of government control over health care and double the cost to government,now running more than $1 trillion for Medicare and Medicaid. As Shakespeare might say, "Double, double, toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble." Well, Will, the cauldron is bubbling.

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