At least since the days of the first progressive president, Teddy Roosevelt (a Republican, no less) Universal Healthcare has been debated in our nation’s capital. Debated, but not passed. The health care industry has successfully blocked measure after measure aimed at reform, with the last notable attempt in the early 1990s. Until today. Today, Christmas Eve, 2009, the Senate voted 60-39 in favor of some reforms to the health care system. Is there universal health care in the bill? No. Not yet. A public option? No. Not that, either, although it is included in the House version. But the bill does prevent the health insurance industry from denying benefits or charging higher premiums because of preexisting conditions. And it contains complex provisions which are designed to allow some 30 million working poor the ability to have health insurance.
But after some 80 years of trying, reform finally got through the Senate. One senator had this to say:
If the measure were worthwhile, contended Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., “they wouldn’t be rushing it through Congress on Christmas Eve.”
As it turns out, the Christmas Eve vote was due to Republican obstructionism, since a 51-49 vote by the Democratic majority could have been obtained on a much better bill months ago. It also turns out that President Obama’s efforts to bipartisanship meant bipartisanship within the Democratic Party. The Republican Party has drawn a line in stone – to include any of them in a bipartisan bill means the bill must totally conform to their demands. In fact, during the course of the health care debate, the Republican Party set for itself a new “purity test” consisting largely of bullet points aimed at obstructing a progressive agenda. While the Republican Party is thinning its ranks to the “pure” the Democratic Party has opened its ranks to conservative candidates, “Blue Dog Democrats.” It was their votes, and the vote of “Independent” Joe Lieberman, that had to be cajoled into breaking a filibuster and passing the first-ever reform of the health care system in this country. It may be a small step now, but Progressives can use this battle as proof positive that we need more progressive candidates to run, not only against Republicans, but against Blue Dog Democrat and certain “independent” candidates as well. This Christmas Eve vote of the Senate is but a small step for Congress, but a giant leap towards the day when no American goes without health care. Peace and Blessings.