11 March, 2010

Harry Gave 'em Hell

I actually had a chance to read me some Ezra Klein this morning, and I'm very glad I did.  I haven't been this satisfied by a letter written by a politician to a politician since Claire McCaskill laid ye olde smackdown upon two deserving Missouri State legislators (and if you haven't read that one, by all means, do - 'tis a work of art).  Check out Harry Reid, ladies and gentlemen:
Harry Reid just sent Mitch McConnell a letter expressing his intention to move forward with reconciliation, and telling the Republicans to, well, read for yourself:
Though we have tried to engage in a serious discussion, our efforts have been met by repeatedly debunked myths and outright lies. At the same time, Republicans have resorted to extraordinary legislative maneuvers in an effort not to improve the bill, but to delay and kill it. After watching these tactics for nearly a year, there is only one conclusion an objective observer could make: these Republican maneuvers are rooted less in substantive policy concerns and more in a partisan desire to discredit Democrats, bolster Republicans, and protect the status quo on behalf of the insurance industry.[...]
60 Senators voted to pass historic reform that will make health insurance more affordable, make health insurance companies more accountable and reduce our deficit by roughly a trillion dollars. The House passed a similar bill. However, many Republicans now are demanding that we simply ignore the progress we’ve made, the extensive debate and negotiations we’ve held, the amendments we’ve added (including more than 100 from Republicans) and the votes of a supermajority in favor of a bill whose contents the American people unambiguously support. We will not. We will finish the job. We will do so by revising individual elements of the bills both Houses of Congress passed last year, and we plan to use the regular budget reconciliation process that the Republican caucus has used many times.
I know that many Republicans have expressed concerns with our use of the existing Senate rules, but their argument is unjustified. There is nothing unusual or extraordinary about the use of reconciliation. As one of the most senior Senators in your caucus, Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, said in explaining the use of this very same option, “Is there something wrong with majority rules? I don’t think so.” Similarly, as non-partisan congressional scholars Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein said in this Sunday’s New York Times, our proposal is “compatible with the law, Senate rules and the framers’ intent.”
Reconciliation is designed to deal with budget-related matters, and some have expressed doubt that it could be used for comprehensive health care reform that includes many policies with no budget implications. But the reconciliation bill now under consideration would not be the vehicle for comprehensive reform – that bill already passed outside of reconciliation with 60 votes. Instead, reconciliation would be used to make a modest number of changes to the original legislation, all of which would be budget-related. There is nothing inappropriate about this. Reconciliation has been used many times for a variety of health-related matters, including the establishment of the Children’s Health Insurance Program and COBRA benefits, and many changes to Medicare and Medicaid.
As you know, the vast majority of bills developed through reconciliation were passed by Republican Congresses and signed into law by Republican Presidents – including President Bush’s massive, budget-busting tax breaks for multi-millionaires. Given this history, one might conclude that Republicans believe a majority vote is sufficient to increase the deficit and benefit the super-rich, but not to reduce the deficit and benefit the middle class. Alternatively, perhaps Republicans believe a majority vote is appropriate only when Republicans are in the majority. Either way, we disagree. Keep in mind that reconciliation will not exclude Republicans from the legislative process. You will continue to have an opportunity to offer amendments and change the shape of the legislation. In addition, at the end of the process, the bill can pass only if it wins a democratic, up-or-down majority vote. If Republicans want to vote against a bill that reduces health care costs, fills the prescription drug “donut hole” for seniors and reduces the deficit, you will have every right to do so.
Like Steve Benen said, "Seems like someone had his Wheaties this morning."  He keeps this up, and follows through with actual action, I might have to stop calling the man "Wet Reid."

Cons take note: it looks like you've pushed even amiable doormats beyond endurance.  And it could end up fucking them in the end, because Harry's had it, and he's got a plan:
Meeting with center-left journalists on the Hill today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) not only blamed Republicans' tactics for the chamber's difficulties, but vowed to consider changes in the next Congress.
In a speech before a gathering of progressive media, Reid compared the procedural games played by his Republican counterparts to the use of the spitball in a baseball game and the four-corner offense in basketball -- tactics in each sport that were ultimately outlawed.
"The filibuster has been abused. I believe that the Senate should be different than the House and will continue to be different than the House," Reid said. "But we're going to take a look at the filibuster. Next Congress, we're going to take a look at it. We are likely to have to make some changes in it, because the Republicans have abused that just like the spitball was abused in baseball and the four-corner offense was abused in basketball."
In terms of when we can expect to see changes, or even the possibility of changes, this year will likely offer very little. Reid noted consideration of changes in the "next Congress," which as Sam Stein noted, is a significant qualifier: "To change Senate rules in the middle of the session requires 67 votes, which Democrats clearly don't have. But changing the rules at the beginning of the 112th Congress will require the chair to declare the Senate is in a new session and can legally draft new rules. That ruling would be made by Vice President Joe Biden, who has spoken out against the current abuse of the filibuster. The ruling can be appealed, but that appeal can be defeated with a simple majority vote."
That would be lovely.

Harry, my dear: continue to give 'em hell.  It's refreshing.

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