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As Procedural Votes Continue In Senate, Louise Slaughter (D-NY) Says “Kill The Bill”

The Senate is in the middle of the second of seven procedural votes on health care reform. In the first, lawmakers voted down a point of order on the Constitutionality of the individual mandate proposed by John Ensign and Orrin Hatch. The party-line vote failed, 39-60. Other votes include a series of additional points of order, a final vote on passage of the substitute amendment (basically the entire bill), and a cloture vote on HR 3590, the final procedural hurdle before tomorrow morning’s vote on the bill. All of these are expected to be decided in favor of the Democrats strictly along party lines. The Senate will pass a health care bill tomorrow (UPDATE: And they’ll pass it at 7am ET, not 8am as previously decided).

But Louise Slaughter (D-NY), a co-chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus and the Chair of the House Rules Committee, has laid down a powerful marker, signaling that the Senate’s bill should be defeated, and suggesting that the Congress start over from scratch.

The Senate health care bill is not worthy of the historic vote that the House took a month ago […]

But under the Senate plan, millions of Americans will be forced into private insurance company plans, which will be subsidized by taxpayers. That alternative will do almost nothing to reform health care but will be a windfall for insurance companies. Is it any surprise that stock prices for some of those insurers are up recently?

I do not want to subsidize the private insurance market; the whole point of creating a government option is to bring prices down. Insisting on a government mandate to have insurance without a better alternative to the status quo is not true reform.

By eliminating the public option, the government program that could spark competition within the health insurance industry, the Senate has ended up with a bill that isn’t worthy of its support.

Slaughter did not limit her criticisms about the Senate’s bill to the lack of a public option. She said that the age band of 3:1 (insurance companies can change three times as much for the same coverage, in the Senate bill, unlike the 2:1 age band in the House bill) was unwise; she wants the repeal of the anti-trust exemption for the insurance industry in the final product; she prefers the employer mandate in the House bill over the bad free-rider policy in the Senate’s; and she abhors the choice provisions in both bills (though that wasn’t enough for her to vote against the House bill the first time around).

Slaughter concludes:

Supporters of the weak Senate bill say “just pass it — any bill is better than no bill.”

I strongly disagree — a conference report is unlikely to sufficiently bridge the gap between these two very different bills.

It’s time that we draw the line on this weak bill and ask the Senate to go back to the drawing board. The American people deserve at least that.

That is much further than any House progressive has yet been willing to go, and it sets up a major problem for Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid as they seek to reconcile the two bills. But fundamentally, Slaughter is negotiating for the best bill possible, and she’s not rolling over to appease the Democratic establishment, the Senate or even the White House. From a policy standpoint, she’s doing what’s right for the bill.

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David Dayen

David Dayen