Coakley Wins Democratic Primary in Massachusetts
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley (D)
the Democratic nomination for Ted Kennedy's Senate
seat yesterday, getting more votes (47%) than any of her three male rivals. Given how blue
Massachusetts is, it is virtually certain she will be elected the state's first female senator over
state senator Scott Brown (R) in the Jan. 19 special election.
All the polls had predicted a Coakley landslide so few people were surprised by the results.
Amendment Banning Abortions Fails in Senate
Sen. Ben Nelson's amendment to the health-insurance bill, which would have forbid insurance companies from
failed to pass
in the Senate yesterday. It went down to defeat 54-45. The amendment was essentially the same one as the
Stupak amendment which is in the House bill.
Nelson was unhappy with losing, but he didn't throw a hissy fit or promise to filibuster the final bill.
Most likely, he didn't really expect it to pass and now can tell the people of Nebraska that he did his best
but those Eastern Liberals beat him down. That's probably good enough for his next campaign. With many
senators, it is the symbolism and sound bites that matter, not the actual legislation.
Senate Nearing a Compromise on the Health-Insurance Bill
Majority leader Harry Reid has spent the week gently nudging his caucus towards a compromise bill that would reform
the health-insurance system. One obstacle was removed yesterday when the anti-abortion amendment was put
up for a straight up-or-down vote and it was defeated. The other main obstacle is the public option,
which about 56 or 57 senators approve. In any other legislative chamber of any democracy in the
world that would be enough, but since a Republican filibuster is assured, that is not enough to pass the
Senate. Hence Reid has spent the week desperately trying to find a compromise that all 60 members of
his caucus can sign onto. In now
that he may have one, but the details are still secret. According to
the most likely elements of of the compromise are:
- People as young as 55 could buy into Medicare.
- People besides federal employees could buy into the plan government employees are offered.
- The public option would have a trigger.
- Private insurance companies would be more heavily regulated by the government.
- People up to 133-150% of the federal poverty line would be covered by Medicaid.
Conservative senators like this because they know the trigger will never be pulled and there will
be no public option. They can live with more regulation of the insurance companies because few voters
understand that kind of stuff so it won't come back to bite them. Progressives don't really like the
deal, but once people under 65 are allowed to buy into Medicare, they can envision a future Congress
dropping the limit to 50, then 45, then 40, and eventually Medicare becomes the single-payer plan
But as usual, the devil is in the details. For example, could everyone 55 and older buy into Medicare,
or only uninsured or sick people? The insurance companies (and the senators who serve them) would absolutely love
a way to get sick people 55-65 off private plans while keeping the healthy 55-65 year olds. This would
be a great windfall to them. Another key issue is when would this provision kick in? If it starts before
the 2010 elections, the Democrats would undoubtedly pick up many votes among older voters who signed
up. If it kicks in in 2013 or 2014, there is plenty of time for a future Congress to kill it altogether.
Also up in the air is what exactly would the federal option mean. Currently, federal employees can
get a health-insurance plan offered by private companies but negotiated by the Office of Personnel
Management. Could every American buy this insurance? If so, the OPM would have immense clout in
negotiating deals with private companies since it could deliver millions of customers. To the extent
that anyone could choose between his or her employer's insurance, the federal plan, (and if older than
55, Medicare), there would be real competition among insurance companies. However, the senators who
get large contributions from the insurance companies will do their best to minimize that competition.
Thus until the details are revealed, it will be hard to tell what the proposal really means.
One huge (political) advantage of a triggered public option is that the two Republican senators from Maine,
Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, might vote for it. Their votes would mean that Reid could afford the
loss of Sen. Joe Lieberman and one other member of his caucus
The idea has been
to have the House just pass the Senate bill, thus avoiding conference altogether and getting the bill to
the President's desk before Jan. 1. However, killing the public option may so anger House Democrats
that such a plan is unworkable. If the Senate passes a bill with a triggered public option and it goes
to conference, conferees from the House will be in a real bind. If they insist on a public option in the
final bill, the entire bill may go down in flames in a Senate filibuster. If they don't, it might fail
in the House. They might try to go for a compromise though, allowing anyone 50 or older to buy into
Medicare. Such a bill might be able to pass both chambers but at this point no one really knows what
The Congressional Budget Office is now figuring out how much the secret plan will cost.
Once that number is revealed, Reid will announce the plan and the real fight will start. If the bill
will ultimately reduce the federal deficit (because the--unknown--taxes it contains exceed the projected
government outlays), then it will be a much easier sell to people like Ben Nelson, who can then claim
he helped reduce the federal deficit. Remember, maybe half of the battle is about the actual
legislation and the other half is about grandstanding and positioning yourself as the champion of
something popular back home.
If you like this Website, tell your friends. You can also share by clicking this button
-- The Votemaster
Your donation is greatly appreciated. It will buy ads to publicize the site.