Friday, August 28, 2009
It's my responsibility, in part two of this two-part piece on health care reform post-Kennedy, to provide a positive spin on what Ted Kennedy's death means to health care reform legislation. There is speculation that Kennedy's death would serve as a wake-up call to those engaging in petty bickering over non-issues and erase, or at least smudge, partisan lines drawn in the sand over wildly inaccurate arguments against reform.
While I can't get behind the idea that the death of the lion will induce some sort of broad mea culpa from the death panel party, I am not of the opinion that health care reform dies with Kennedy. Taking up the cause of a New England liberal is not politically beneficial to the likes of Chuck Grassley or John Boehner, but then again, it's not from the midwest that hope springs eternal.
Prior to Kennedy's death, we had a situation where the senatorial vote appeared split absolutely along party lines, with a few blue dog democrats sitting opposite the majority. If one is to argue that Ted Kennedy dying is going to cauterize that partisan cleft, I think they should be specific as to which senators are apt to jump ship and vote in favor of a reform bill. I haven't seen definitive predictions on that front.
However, I was not convinced, prior to Tuesday, that the senate vote would be an even 60-40 split, assuming sufficient pressure were applied to blue dogs by the democratic leadership. Let me rephrase that... I wasn't convinced that the vote would be 59 democrats (plus Bernie Sanders) to 40 republicans.
The wild cards are, as they were earlier this year on the stimulus vote, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine.
Olympia Snowe is on the senate finance committee; one of the "gang of 6." Susan Collins is in the unique position of having sponsored an "end of life" initiative this spring, a bit before it became a plot to euthanize grandparents. Both are from New England, where the effect of Kennedy's death would be most pronounced. Both are seen as being moderate Republicans. Both are from Maine, where, according to an August 8th CNN poll, 56% favor congress passing a health care reform bill this year.
There is hope amongst liberals that Kennedy's death will cause a sea-change of opinion among our elected leaders on the issue of health care reform. I don't believe that his death will have the effect of catalyzing broad concensus on the issue, but his one vote could be replaced by two votes from Maine; a net gain that could be just enough. Sphere: Related Content