The U.S. House of Representatives approved healthcare reform legislation that congressional Democrats have spent most of Barack Obama’s term so far trying to pass. The final vote was 219 For, 212 Against. No Republican voted for the bill, and neither did 43 Democrats. Following the vote, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. John Larson released a statement wherein he said, “I am so proud to be part of this historic moment along the lines of the passage of Social Security and Medicare.”
Proud is something the members of the House Democratic Caucus should not be. I’m not the slightest bit proud of them. I’m ashamed of them, and embarrassed for them, and embarrassed by them. It disgusts me to think that after a year of nearly continuous debate, with the wind that swept Barack Obama to the presidency still at their backs (at least to start with), this feeble handful of tentative reforms is all the men and women we elect to represent us in our national legislature could manage. The president and the congressional Democrats will treat this as a triumph and make it the centerpiece of re-election campaigns this fall, but what this botched, half-assed attempt at reform really demonstrates is how insufficient and incompetent the United States Congress has become.
If your district’s member of the House of Representatives is a Republican, he or she is either a liar, an ignoramus, or — at best — content to allow the liars and ignoramuses to speak for the party. If your congressperson is a Democrat, he or she is a weakling or a coward. Of President Obama, who left the House Democrats to their own inadequate devices for most of the reform effort, the best I can say is that he waited to join the fight until it was already too late.
Here’s what Rick Rottman, my fellow blogger from the Hagerstown area, had to say today at Bent Corner:
Instead of taking pride in getting this bill passed, I think we Democrats should be ashamed that it took this long to get something like this passed. We should have done things like prohibit insurance companies from dropping sick people or denying coverage to people because of “pre-existing” conditions decades ago.
Amen to that.
Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, appeared on CBS this morning and had the balls to say, “I think what’s been going on for the better part of a year is a lot of attempts to confuse and scare Americans.”
No shit, Kathleen? And where were you during that better part of a year? Where were the Democratic members of the House and the Senate? How many, when confronted by confused and misinformed and angry constituents at town meetings last summer, bothered to refute the often insane claims being made about healthcare reform? How many Democrats took public stands against the lies and distortions presented every day to millions of Americans by Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Mark Levin? Where were the public debates? Where were the TV ads to counter spurious arguments? Where were the Democrats insisting on real reform — on a single-payer system that would cover all Americans and end the abuses of patients at the hands of private insurance companies once and for all? What happened to the insistence, on the part of the Democrats in the House and President Obama, that the public option was essential to reform?
How many stood by while morons like Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann disseminated out-and-out lies about death panels, benefit rationing, and encouraging veterans to opt for assisted suicide? Who challenged Sarah Palin to present the evidence for her maniacal claims in an open public forum where they could be examined and refuted? Lots of Democrats complained about the misinformation being spread, the ignorant, misinformed, misleading arguments against the reform proposals, but how many actually tried to fight back?
“Not nearly enough” is the answer to that question. Not nearly enough.
So no, I’m not going to pat the Democrats of Congress on the back. They’re cowardly, they’re impotent, and they’re a disgrace to the offices they hold. Shame on them, and on the president, for trying to paint this pathetic failure as an historic achievement.
Not everyone is so pessimistic. Rep. John Larson posted an article on the House Democrats’ blog a few days ago detailing the ten immediate benefits of the just-passed legislation. The Huffington Post has a list of eighteen immediate effects of the bill. And finally, the Washington Post has a form you can fill out to see how the healthcare overhaul effects you specifically, based on factors like whether or not you have insurance, and your household income. Check those out.