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Monday, November 9, 2009

The Weekend Health Vote: Four Things To Know

Posted by Matt Davis on Mon, Nov 9, 2009 at 1:49 PM

Hey, smarty pants. Want to look smart in the bar later, when someone brings up the topic of health reform? Here's how:

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THANK YOU: EARL BLUMENAUER RETURNS TO PDX YESTERDAY...

1.PELOSI BROUGHT IT HOME. The House of Representatives passed the house version of President Obama's health reform bill by 220 votes to 215 late on Saturday night. Broad credit is being given to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for marshaling the votes successfully. "As far as I know she never sleeps or eats," a New York Democrat told Politico. The vote took courage from some vulnerable dems, too—the Republicans began taking aim at vulnerable Democrats, almost immediately. Meanwhile the NYT has a list of all the Democrats who voted against the reform.

"It is an absolutely critical step, nothing like this has happened before," says Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer. "Obviously, if it were just me designing it, it would look a little different, but one should not minimize the importance of getting that bill launched on its way to the senate."

2.NO FEDERAL SUBSIDY FOR ABORTIONS. There will be no Federal coverage for abortions, under an amendment to the bill. Anti-abortion advocates are "emboldened" by their victory on this, reports the New York Times. The compromise brought tears to the eyes of some Pelosi allies, reports Politico. "Some of the lawmakers argued that Pelosi was turning her back on a decades-long campaign by female Democratic members in support of abortion rights."

"It's extremely distressing," says Laura Taylor with NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon. "It says any individual who receives even a dollar in federal subsidy can't purchase a private plan that covers abortion. It's more sweeping than any prohibition we've seen, and it really results in a de facto ban on abortion for those with subsidy." "It's primarily going to impact middle and low-income women," Taylor continues. "Who are the people we are supposed to be helping the most in this plan."

"I don't think we've heard the last word on this," says Blumenauer, who voted against the amendment. We'll keep you posted on efforts to combat the amendment as the bill moves forward.

3.THE SENATE CAN, MOST LIKELY, SUCK IT. All eyes are now on the senate, where another version of the bill must now be passed, before the house and senate bills are merged through brutal negotiations before going back for "final passage," and then forward for the President's signature. Senate leader Harry Reid faces skepticism about his ability to deliver by Christmas, even from the President, it seems, who told journalists yesterday: “Now it falls on the United States Senate to take the baton and bring this effort to the finish line on behalf of the American people. And I’m absolutely confident that they will.” In other words? The opposite.

Joe Lieberman says he'll vote against any plan with a public option, which is hardly an encouraging start. It's a matter of "conscience," he says. Oregon Senator Ron Wyden is pushing to get his amendment into the Senate Bill, which would allow folks who already have employer-based coverage to get access to the "exchange." Observers are hoping Wyden doesn't go off the deep end if his amendment fails to make it. Who knows.

"I think there's a better than 50% chance that there will be something on its way to the President's desk by Christmas," says Blumenauer. "I'm not going to make any hard and fast predictions on that front, but I think we're in pretty good shape."

4.KURT SCHRADER COULD NEARLY SUCK IT, UNTIL THE VERY LAST MINUTE. All of Oregon's congressmen did the right thing. David Wu, Blumenauer and Peter DeFazio all voted yes. Blumenauer was greeted yesterday at the airport by and about 70 people from Health Care for America Now, Organizing for America, and affiliated groups. "I was up rather late the night before, and I had to get up at five to start getting a plane back," says Blumenauer. "That was such a nice gesture and there were so many people who had worked so long, there's a lot of citizen input that we've received, and seeing so many people come out to say thank you was very nice."

"We wanted to make sure that he knew that Oregonians appreciated him being a champion on health care reform," says Betsy Dillner, Oregon State Coordinator of HCAN. "We know that he was a target for Republicans and the special interests that have been working overtime to try and kill meaningful reform."

Meanwhile freshman congressman Kurt Schrader voted yes, too, having sat on the fence for a long time. Poor chap is a freshman in a swing district, and is already being attacked by the National Republican Congressional Committee, which this morning issued a press release entitled "Kurt Schrader Votes to Tax Away More Oregon Jobs." His vote took the most guts, and we applaud him for it.

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