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‘Vote-a-rama drama’: Republicans offer tempting amendments to health legislation

WASHINGTON — Republicans know Democrats want a clean reconciliation bill, free of any changes so that the final fixes to the recently enacted health-care reform law can be passed and sent to the White House without having to endure another tricky (and time-consuming) vote in the House.

But surely, they’ll say, Democrats couldn’t possibly want insurers to provide erectile dysfunction treatments like Viagra for convicted child molesters. How about exempting existing health plans from new requirements, grandfathering them in to ensure that President Obama can keep his pledge that anyone who likes their health plan can keep it?

Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken have said they’d back a public option if it came to the Senate — and there’s a good chance Republicans will give them a chance to vote on one. Another would exempt many medical devices from new taxes and fees in the approved health care bill, something its GOP sponsor said would directly hold down the ever-rising cost of health care.

It’s all part of a process Klobuchar (and others) call “vote-a-rama drama.”

After the 20 hours of debate on the reconciliation bill that’s going on as I type comes a period of amendments, then voting. Republicans can offer as many amendments as they like, with one minute of debate on each side and then 10 minutes of voting. And since they’d like to stop or at least seriously delay the bill (or, to be cynically political, simply make life rough for vulnerable Democrats this November), the amendments are going to keep coming and coming and coming.

Democrats urged to vote no

“Put simply, to amend this bill is to kill the bill,” said Sen. Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democrat in explaining why he’d vote against a public option.

Top Senate Democrats are urging their colleagues to vote against everything, even amendments they might support, in order to keep the bill unchanged. It’s a dilemma each of the 57 Democrats and two independents who caucus with them will face. At least 50 of them need to hold the line on each vote to keep the bill unchanged.

“We’re going to look at each individual one” before deciding, said Franken spokeswoman Jess McIntosh. “Obviously [Franken’s] priority is getting the reconciliation bill passed and getting health care finalized for people who need it and correcting the injustice in our student loan system.”

Senate leaders are hoping to vote on the entire bill as early as late Thursday, though some estimates have that final vote coming as late as Saturday. The goal is to get a vote in before the Easter recess, a two-week break that’s scheduled to start as soon as lawmakers go home this week.

Under that scenario, Obama would sign the bill over the break and lawmakers would return to Washington April 12 ready for debates in earnest about financial regulatory reform, carbon cap-and-trade, U.S. relations with Israel — anything other than health care.

Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 03/24/2010 - 04:30 pm.

    Wasn’t this the party that claimed to be full of “new ideas” a few years back? Turned out their new ideas were just designed to bring back the robber barons, only this time, in the realm of finance, investment, and international commerce.

    In the end, all they did was take us about as close to 1929 as we’ve been in the past eighty years.

    Now when the real party of “new ideas,” or at least good one’s reborn, finally begins to accomplish something, all they can to is play obstructionist political games.

    Funny how they used to accuse the Democrats of “playing politics” with absolutely everything. I guess we see who really plays politics. Just the same old flim-flam and dishonest, useless B.S. from our Republican friends…

  2. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 03/24/2010 - 08:03 pm.

    And of course we know that the Repubs would vote for a bill with a public option was the amendment was added…. sure….
    Lucy snatches the football once again.
    Al and Amy are smarter than that.

  3. Submitted by Brad Robinson on 03/25/2010 - 08:28 am.

    Where these ideas the first time the bill was looked at? Maybe if the Republicans have offered these ideas then this could have been a more bipartisan bill.

  4. Submitted by Bill Coleman on 03/25/2010 - 09:02 am.

    Once the reconciliation bill is passed and signed, the Democrats should bring up all of these items again. It would make great video showing GOPers voting for them before voting against them.

    Of course, this would just be a waste of time and political theatre. The Democrats have much more important tasks on their checklist.

    As the list of the primary benefits of the legislation are repeated in the media, my befuddlement of GOP opposition continues to grow! What is it specifically that they are against besides “the federal takeover of health care”.

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