Oct 282009
Authors: Kevin Hollinshead

The health care debate has been littered with strange stories that will be remembered for their almost comical lunacy. But one has been stranger than the others, which is no easy feat.

Republicans and other insurance company apologists have incessantly claimed that President Barack Obama’s policies are actually a plot to kill old people. That’s where the phrase ‘death panel’ comes from.

The Tea Party sect of Conservative America never ceases to entertain. From their classy “Obama is a Nazi” posters, to turning on their fellow conservatives (as evidenced by hecklers at Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC ‘s, recent Town Hall meeting), this group has consistently provided good fodder for TV.

Opponents of reform have often epitomized the word “contradictory.” One minute, they’ll shriek that a public option is bad because the government is too incompetent to run anything, and the next they’ll froth at the mouth about how a public option would spell the end of insurance companies, and of competition in general.

The most baffling phenomenon, however, has been the Senate’s efforts to get 60 yea votes on a health care bill, in order to block a Republican filibuster. They’ve been acting as if 60, not 50 plus Vice President Joe Biden’s vote, is a majority. Thankfully, that tactic appears to be close to being abandoned, but there’s still a lot of wooing going on.

In an ideal world, both Democrats and Republicans would be equally concerned about the public’s health, and they would enthusiastically work together to solve this problem. Unfortunately, that’s definitely not the case. That’s why Democrats’ efforts to get Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine to support their bill are pointless.

Even if Snowe did vote for a health care bill with a public option, that hardly makes it bipartisan. If anything, it would shine a beacon on the division of the two parties.

The public knows that Republicans are against any bill with a public option. How? The GOP has said so. Republicans on Capitol Hill have literally stated that it is not in their best interest to pass a health care bill. Exactly zero House Republicans voted in favor of the latest Democratic-sponsored bill. The public knows that there’s no hope for bipartisanship here.

Yet, Senate Democrats have let real reform get watered down by aspirations of “bipartisanship.” 61 percent of Americans want the choice of a public option, according to a recent CNN poll, yet the Senate has been more concerned with vote totals so far. Why is this crazy? Let me answer that with another question.

Do people care about what the vote was when Congress passed Social Security or Medicare? No, they only care about its passage, regardless of ideology. When confronted with financial ruin after receiving life-saving care, you aren’t thinking about Snowe.

People won’t remember whether a health care bill had bipartisan support or not. If a strong bill with a robust public option is as important as Congress, the president and the American public say it is, then what matters is passing it while minimizing detrimental concessions. Stripping it for one meaningless Republican vote is asinine.

If Republicans don’t want to cooperate in drafting what may be the most important legislation of this decade, fine. If they don’t want to present any new, meaningful alternatives to the Democrats’ bill, whatever. They just can’t expect us to take them seriously when they whine about the bill, or to give them partial credit should the bill succeed. Republicans are daring Senate Democrats to face what would likely be a short-lived filibuster (it wouldn’t help their already dismal approval ratings). It’s time to call that bluff.

Kevin Hollinshead is a junior political science major. His column appears Mondays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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