SenateThe Senate officially begins debate on health care reform today at 3 pm. The floor debate will be live on C-Span 2.

3:04 – Reid calls this one of the most historic debates in Senate history. He points out the bill would reduce the deficit and expand coverage. Reid makes a point that the money for the CLASS Act should only be used for the CLASS program. Reid asks for unanimous consent that no amendment could use the money generated for Social Security or the CLASS Act for anything besides those programs.

3:13 – Enzi objected to the consent request. (Ben Nelson has been very concerned about the CLASS Act so this could be a move by Reid to help win him over).

3:15 – Reid gives Blanche Lincoln a lot of praise for saying the bill should be public for at least 72 hours before the vote. In the veil Reid asks that all amendments be posted publicly online before they are voted on.

3:16 – Enzi objected. Reid calls this a bad way to start debate.

3:19 – Mike Enzi is “upset” about the unanimous consent request but will let Mikulski get to her amendment.

3:20 – Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland) offers the first amendment. This amendment deals with cost-sharing for preventive screening for females. Mikulski stresses that woman currently pay more for health insurance than men. The cost of her amendment will be $1 billion as scored by the CBO. It would reduce co-payments and deductibles for some additional preventive screening measures not currently in the bill.

3:34 – Baucus says women are currently discriminated against in our country when it comes to health insurance. He speaks in general support of the reform bill. “Our system is in crisis.” Baucus said the claims that reform is about government takeover of health care is false. It is about restoring control to the doctor and patient. He says claims that reform would increase deficit are false. It would in fact reduce the deficit. He says claims that the reform would raise taxes are also false. Baucus is going through all the myths about health care reform and calling them false.

3:42 – Baucus claims the bill would reduce costs by eliminating cost shifting, reducing red tape, streamlining with standard enrollment forms, and providing tax credits, etc. He has a 10 item list of reforms that should reduce costs. Baucus says costs without reform would continue to spiral out of control. Of course the CBO just put out a report saying premiums in 2016 would increase at the same rate with or without the passage of this bill.

3:53 – Enzi is speaking now and calls Reid’s unanimous consent request a stunt (I do agree although all floor “debate” is a stunt and has been for years now). Enzi calls the bill partisan (which is funny because Obama bent over backwards giving Enzi months to write a bipartisan bill he could vote for and Enzi kept moving the football making it clear he would never support a bill regardless of what was in it).

4:00 – Enzi called the Gang of Six an honest negotiation to find support and claims the fault was the leadership finally set a deadline (which was after months of repeated blown deadlines and clear indications Grassley for political reasons would never vote for anything).

4:03 – Enzi calls the Reid bill a “job killer” and says it will “ration care” and is “a government takeover” of health care. He says the bill has billions in pork. Enzi is making the case that the bill breaks several promises of Obama. He also claims future Congresses will basically not allow many of the elements of the bill to go into effect.

4:10 – Dodd speaks about the work Ted Kennedy did to write on the HELP Committee. Dodd almost pointing out the silliness that the Senate requires a debate about having debate. He claims we are here to create an “American health care plan” not like other countries’ plans. (Why exactly must we recreate the wheel. Can’t we learn from others and copy what they are doing well?) Dodd talks about all the great improvements the bill will make and tries to make a very personal case for reform.

Jon Walker

Jon Walker

Jonathan Walker grew up in New Jersey. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2006. He is an expert on politics, health care and drug policy. He is also the author of After Legalization and Cobalt Slave, and a Futurist writer at http://pendinghorizon.com