The United States Senate voted on Saturday to open debate on its health care legislation, thus clearing one more hurdle for President Barack Obama’s most important domestic initiative. Full debate will begin after the U.S. Thanksgiving and is expected to continue throughout December.
Even if eventually passed, however, there is one more hurdle to come: reconciling this bill with the one passed by the House earlier this month by 220 to 215, with just one Republican voting in favor; then, of course, the president’s approval.
I’ll not get into the details of the bill or the differences between it and the House’s counterpart—those are ably covered elsewhere. I am, however, filled with anticipation over whether Americans will eventually join all other Western industrial nations in providing some form of universal—or nearly so—health care available regardless of ability to pay.
Under the current political system in the United States, can any major legislation make it through both houses of Congress in anything close to optimal form? Or will the inevitable compromises provide a “sum of all interest groups,” as Thomas Friedman would say, without providing the best health care for the most number of Americans at the least cost.
I am not optimistic. Already millions have been spent to kill the bill and millions more will be employed to try to gut or destroy it by Christmas.
Already senators will have honed every rhetorical weapon and parliamentary tactic for use in the thrust and parry to come. Attempts will be made to kill the proposed government-run insurance plan. For some, the target will be adding tougher language on medical malpractice lawsuits. And others will want to see a tightening of restrictions on insurance coverage for abortions. Pet issues will be championed to maximum effect to bolster future election chances.
And, of course, it’ll be time to make good on promises made in exchange for the millions of dollars donated as reelection funds by the powerful private health care lobby.
It is a wonder anything of real value ever gets done in that place.
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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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