And down the stretch they come.
President Barack Obama and the majority of the Democrats in Washington have heard everything they needed to hear, positive and negative, about health care and are ready for a vote.
Question is: When will the vote happen?
Democrats have used campaign-style tactics the past several weeks to push the benefits of the health care plan. But the election for America’s right to free health care doesn’t have an end date. And that’s a problem.
It’s given cable news outlets and political talk radio more time to dice out details of the bill and push them to the forefront in order to dissuade Americans from favoring the bill. Obama showed that he’s keen to this on Tuesday when he made derisive comments towards the Republican Party and health insurance companies.
“You see all the pundits, talking over each other on the cable shows, yelling, shouting,” said Obama. “They can’t help themselves.”
One of the many issues surrounding health care reform is the concept of reconciliation legislation, a process in which a bill can be passed by a simple majority. Republicans used reconciliation six times during the George W. Bush presidency and have now collectively declared that this process would be, in the words of Sarah Palin, “shoving this bill down America’s throat.”
Republicans have repeatedly claimed that they wanted to start with a “clean sheet of paper” and some Democrats have screamed “single payer or bust” since last spring. Everything points to a compromised plan that might not satisfy anyone.
Case in point: Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson. Last month, Nelson needed an extra push for him to vote for health care reform and the fix came in the form of 100 percent federal funding for Nebraska’s Medicaid expansion, in perpetuity, with other benefits dumped in the laps of locally based insurance companies. Other state senators and former President Bill Clinton screamed unfair, and Obama and company decided to fix that criticism by increasing Medicaid’s federal share to all states until 2017.
Despite health care reform not being sold in its original packaging, many pro-reform activists are fighting on Obama’s behalf and letting health insurance companies hear their complaints, grievances and concerns.
Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Washington on Tuesday to voice their support for health care reform. The coalition of labor and politically liberal groups called “Organizers with Health Care for America Now” criticized the health insurance industry by targeting the Ritz-Carlton hotel on 22nd Street and Avenue M in Washington. Insurance company leaders were holding a policy conference at the hotel.
Demonstrators decided to make a mock citizen’s arrest on behalf of the American people when they stopped in front of the hotel to express their anger. Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations), screamed “We’re declaring this a crime scene!” It was met with raucous applause.
Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont and former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, also spoke to the protestors to voice his frustration with a lack of immediate reform. “This is a vote about one thing,” he said. “Are you for the insurance companies or for the American people?”
While the recent pro-health care protests sound like good news to progressives’ ears, the conservative, anti-health care groups are looking to make one more big push to smack down the bill.
The Tea Party Express, a caravan of conservative activists, kicks off an anti-health care reform bill tour on March 27 and hopes that the Republicans can stave off a vote on the bill just a little longer. The White House has called on the House of Representatives to pass the Senate version of the health care bill by March 17. Obama’s scheduled to leave for a trip to Guam, Indonesia and Australia the following day.