Thursday, August 20, 2009

How Many Votes Does a Health Care Bill Need?

As the August recess nears an end, and those politicians who managed to survive their respective town hall events - intact - prepare to return to Washington, the focus of the health care debate is slowly shifting towards vote calculation scenarios. Although the Democrats command overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress, it would appear that the Party can not count every Congress person with a "D" beside his/her name as a vote in favor of Health Care reform. Furthermore, the newly invigorated Republican Party has begun to seize upon the tenuous level of support in Congress for the plan, suggesting that any health reform bill must receive the blessing of at least 75-80% of Congress in order to be perceived as a legitimate mandate. Senator Mike Enzi (R.,Wyo.) had the following to say about the health bill, and the Congressional support that is supposedly required of it:
"We need to get a bill that 75 or 80 senators can support...If the Democrats choose to shut out Republicans and moderate Democrats, their plan will fail because the American people will have no confidence in it"

After pondering Senator Enzi's statement for a moment I realized that the Senator simply should know better than to make such a bold assertion. Mike Enzi has been in the Senate for over 12 years you see, so he would have to have been around for the Senate's 2003 passage of the Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act; the legislation that instituted Medicare's Part D prescription program. Ironically, that bill passed the Senate with a 54-44 vote - a confidence-less margin by Senator Enzi's reckoning - yet has likely become an immutable aspect of our health care system.

This inconsistency could possibly be explained by examining the voting tendencies of Medicare Part D recipients v those who would benefit from today's proposed legislation. Younger people have largely abandoned voting due to disillusionment with the system as a whole, in addition to the pervasive apathy that's too common. Lawmaker's understand who shows up on election day, and they act accordingly.

*there's a great movie entitled "10 Trillion and Counting"that provoked some aspects of this post. Sphere: Related Content

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