Posted by: adoseofliberty | October 10, 2009

Baucus Bill Politics

Who Needs a Waiting Period?

Do our representatives in Congress realize that, despite their best efforts, the public actually does find out eventually what they’ve written and voted on?  By an encouragingly close but ultimately meaningless margin, and by an unsurprising party-line split,

the Senate Finance Committee voted 12 to 11 to reject a proposal to require a 72-hour waiting period and a full scoring of the bill by the Congressional Budget Office before the committee casts any final vote.

The proposal from a few weeks ago was known as the Bunning Amendment.  Apparently, “most Americans would not be able to understand the legislative language anyway.”  Fair enough.  But the lawmakers are voting on laws, not “conceptual language.”  The underlying point was to give the leaders who are voting a waiting period, in the hope that they would have enough time (and sense of responsibility) to read the actual bill.  This mind-bending principle of not rushing and ramming through legislation is reflected in a recent poll, where Rasmussen found that “83 percent of the public wants Congress to post legislation online two weeks before voting on it.”  Is this too much to ask for?

Nancy Pelosi made the claim that she would “absolutely” support posting health care legislation online for 72 hours before voting.  There is a petition in the House that would “amend the Rules of the House of Representatives to require that non-emergency legislation and conference reports be available on the Internet for 72 hours before consideration.”  As of today, according to the Library of Congress record, she has yet to sign.

State of Privilege

One of the Baucus bill’s main features is the expansion of Medicaid, whereby already fiscally underwater states get loaded up with an additional $37 billion in costs.  Enter Harry Reid.  The Senator is truly going above and beyond expectations in his “deal-making”:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who is worried about losing his seat next year, worked out a deal by which the federal government will pay all of his home state’s additional Medicaid expenses for the next five years. Under the majority leader’s very special formula, only three other states—Oregon, Rhode Island and Michigan—qualify for this perk, on the grounds, as Mr. Reid put it recently on the Senate floor, that they “are suffering more than most.”

Nevada is quickly becoming the spoiled only-child when it comes to legislative preference (see an earlier post on the Nevada Cancer Institute).

One of the sources that will pay for the Baucus bill is high-value health insurance plans, which get hit with a 40% tax if the cost is above $21,000.  But if you live in New York, you’re safe at that level, or in Massachusetts, you don’t have to worry until your plan is worth $25,000 or more.  Because of numerous union members and strict regulations that prevent low-cost insurance, these states have large amounts of these “Cadillac” plans, so it’s no wonder these states’ Senators are clamoring for special treatment.

Although the Baucus bill targets the “filthy rich” pharmaceutical companies, Sen. Bob Menendez was able to quietly negotiate a $1 billion tax credit for companies that invest in drug research and development.  His state, New Jersey, is where “15 of the world’s 20 largest pharmaceutical companies have major facilities.”

Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry made sure to tack on $5 billion in the bill for a “reinsurance” program intended to help bear union member medical costs.  The author Kim Strassel highlights the obvious:

“This will help our employers, whether it’s the auto industry or whether it’s other industries, be able to lower their costs for early retirees,” said Ms. Stabenow. She is apparently unaware that this is what the broader bill is supposed to do, even without $5 billion in union slush money.

And the actual bill hasn’t even reached the Senate floor.  Oooh, I can’t wait.

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