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Ingraham and Graham -- A Wish List for the Failure of Healthcare Reform

Reported by Julie - December 23, 2009 -

On Monday night’s (12/21/09) O’Reilly Factor, guest hosted by uber-hater Laura Ingraham (why, Bill, why?!?), Senator Lindsey Graham was her guest – and it didn’t take much prompting for him to channel Ingraham, saying, with his disarmingly southern gentleman style, that the healthcare reform debate “turned into a pretty sleazy process at the end, didn’t it?” Yes, it certainly did – especially the part where Republicans did everything except throw themselves from high balconies to obstruct the debate, including an attempt to have the 700-page amendment read in its entirety, which would have taken more than half a day. And by the way – the obstructionist tactics of the Republicans caused a vote on military funding to be delayed; we can see Republicans are all in on supporting our troops. But let’s take it right from the top on this one: “Fair and balanced” would have been inviting a Democratic senator to be on the other side of the “debate,” instead of giving an open forum to radical conservative Ingraham and one of the leading Republican obstructionists, Graham. With video.

The Republicans’ obstructionist tactics have been well-honed -- on last week’s Hannity, Republican Senator Tom Coburn promised, “There will be several more attempts to derail this bill from a parliamentary standpoint by me” -- if not well-placed. This same Coburn proposed a prayer on the Senate floor that “somebody” wouldn’t be able to make the vote for healthcare reform – and it appeared he was talking about 92-year-old, wheelchair-bound Democratic Senator Robert Byrd.

The pair next targeted President Obama for lack of transparency, noting that he had said that “we will negotiate on C-Span the healthcare reform this country needs.” Transparency didn’t appear to be a big issue on Fox when Bush was in office, even though, as reported by DC Bar, “. . . [A]ccording to the National Security Archive, an independent, nongovernmental group that seeks to preserve the nation’s history by collecting and publishing documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the Bush administration was especially secretive. ‘The Bush administration without a doubt is one of the most unnecessarily secretive that we’ve had in contemporary times,’ says Meredith Fuchs, general counsel for the National Security Archive.”

Graham whined, “Harry Reid negotiated with one member of the Senate to get the last vote, the 60th vote, in a room, no one knew where they were at, no one knew what they were talking about, they roll out the 400-page amendment, not one Republican was able to amend that amendment, announce a 2,500-page bill with no Republican input. That’s not change.”

And it’s not true. As Ed Stein of In Denver Times commented, “We can argue the merits of this particular health care bill forever, but that’s never really been the point of the opposition. If it were, the Republican party would have been trying to make the bill better rather than scuttle it. They argue that they’ve been shut out of the process, but that’s not even close to the truth. Little they’ve offered has been constructive, and nothing they’ve proposed even comes close to solving the problems our current non-system of health care presents to tens of millions of Americans. As the old saying goes, if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. Sadly, the GOP has indicated that it will fight granting more Americans access to affordable health care all the way.”

And about that whole rolling out an amendment without Republican input . . . in October, all Republican John Boehner could offer (on Fox, with Greta) to justify the Republicans’ habit of rushing bills through and their lack of transparency when THEY were in power was to say “it was a different time.” As reported by Think Progress, “. . . [D]uring the GOP’s House reign, Republican leaders rushed major pieces of legislation through without giving 24 hours for members to read over the bills, let alone 72, including the Medicare Prescription Drug benefit, President Bush’s second tax cut for the wealthy in 2003, and the USA Patriot Act of 2001.”

Discussing some of the deals brokered in exchange for a vote for the bill, Graham said, “There’s one state in the nation where Medicaid enrollees will be paid for by the Federal government. This deal that Ben Nelson was able to achieve – the bill requires Medicaid to expand. That’s a very big burden on states ‘cause they have a matching portion on that, Nebraska . . . that’s not change anyone can believe in.”

But as Harry Reid explained candidly, "’One way we were able to [secure 60 votes]... was that we had to deal with the art of compromise’ . . . noting that every lawmakers from every state have different needs they seek to satisfy. ‘That's what legislation is all about; it's the art of compromise . . . This legislation is no different than the defense bill we just spent $600 billion dollars on. It's no different than any other piece of legislation . . . .’”

Ingraham tried for hard-ass that turned into a whine, saying, “You can’t blame liberals . . . that’s what liberals do. I focus on the . . . so-called moderate Democrats. I believe there is no such thing as a moderate Democrat any more and this bill proves it . . . they are not fiscally conservative on any issue that matters, a seventh of the economy, Senator Graham.” I hope Ingraham isn’t holding up the Republicans as examples of fiscal conservatism. Andrew Sullivan of the Atlantic quoted Bruce Bartlett of Forbes as saying, “The last Republican who left the office of the presidency with the federal public debt as a percentage of GDP less than when he entered was Richard Nixon (FY 1975). The last Republican who left the office of the presidency with a federal deficit less than 2.7% of GDP was Dwight Eisenhower (FY 1961). Since WW II no Democratic president has ever left office with the federal public debt as a percentage of GDP more than when he entered. And since WW II no Democratic president has ever left office with a federal deficit more than 2.6% of GDP. We already have at least one party of fiscal responsibility. It's called the Democratic Party.”

It seems clear, if you can judge by Graham’s demeanor, that the Republicans are scrambling for something – anything – to hang their hat on with respect to their en masse opposition to the healthcare reform bill. It might pass. People might like it. All the Republicans voted against it, which might make them look like insensitive buffoons. Said Graham, “This bill is a travesty in the making for the American people. . . they say it reduces the deficit by $132 billion, how do you get there? You got to assume we’re gonna cut Medicare . . . .”

“Oh right, that’s gonna happen,” Ingraham retorted.

“We’re not gonna cut Medicare over the next ten years by $470 billion, nor should we,” Graham stated.

Ingraham sarcastically proclaimed, “. . . The Congressional Budget Office, that’s what the Congressional Budget Office said . . . .”

“If I put my budget together and I assumed I was gonna win the lottery I could do more,” Graham said. “. . . the CBO . . . can only look at numbers . . . it’s not gonna happen, it’s a false assumption.” Funny how the Republicans like to use the CBO data when it’s convenient and it appears to coincide with their agenda – I mean, in January 2009, Republicans cited a CBO report to take the stimulus plan to task. Of course, the CBO report they cited didn’t actually exist, but it didn’t stop them from citing the report as a viable source. Now, of course, it’s the same CBO – but this time its reporting is based on a “false assumption.”

The American Medical Association has announced its endorsement of the bill; certain hospital associations also support it. As reported by boston.com, “Yesterday morning Democratic leaders stood beside the president-elect of the American Medical Association, which announced its endorsement of the health care bill. It was a reminder that, despite evidence of growing public nervousness about the proposal, Democrats had moved it to the brink of passage, much farther than any other effort tried over many decades. They said the endorsement of the influential organization was by far the most important endorsement so far, because doctors know best what’s wrong with the system, and because people trust their doctors most.”

Ingraham made the outrageous claim, considering Republicans’ history, particularly Bush, that with “back room deals, back room negotiating, the American people didn’t hear any of it.” Since when did the American people get to hear what goes on in the halls of Congress? We hear bits and pieces, after the fact. And when you Google “Bush” and “sweetheart deals,” pages and pages of, well, stuff comes up. Bush’s sweetheart deal with Wal-Mart. Back-room deal on the Geneva Convention. The Bush energy plan. Then, of course, there was Halliburton. To hear Ingraham, it's like those eight years of Bush never even happened.

Graham made the nonsensical statement that, “You did things for people to get them on board, it wasn’t about reforming healthcare it was about getting 60 votes, the goal was to pass something, really didn’t give a damn what it was.” It’s true that the healthcare reform bill isn’t perfect, but something needed to be passed, and something was better than nothing. As noted by First Draft, “. . . This is still the farthest we’ve ever gotten . . . it looks like Harry Reid might actually get something passed through the Senate before Christmas . . . And that will be the first time ever that Congress has even gotten to the point of voting on national healthcare . . . So yes: It’s not single-payer. The subsidies are inadequate. The public option, if there is one, will be so weak as to be a joke. Every interest group from insurers to doctors to seniors to pharmaceutical companies has been openly bribed to go along. Lots of people will still be left outside the safety net. It’s a mess. But so was Social Security when it passed. It left out domestic workers (because they were mostly black and Southerners demanded it), it left out farmworkers, and its payouts were pathetically small. But what it did do was establish the principle that the elderly should be taken care of. And eventually they were. The healthcare bill we’re about to get is exactly the same: It does too little and it leaves too many people out, but it establishes the principle that everyone deserves decent healthcare. And eventually everyone will.”

In response to President Obama’s comments that healthcare will improve, efficiency will be increased, the bill is deficit neutral and all the naysayers will be proven wrong, Graham said, “This is a falsehood. This bill is based on false promises, things that will never happen . . . .” With nary a whimper from Ingraham, Graham went on to call the bill a “Ponzi scheme” and a “gimmick.”

Graham made the standard speech of misplaced Republican optimism, saying that everything that President Obama campaigned on, including changing Washington behavior, has been “absolutely a failure.” I waited, to no avail, to hear what successes Graham thinks the Republican Party has achieved lately.

“This is the first time that there’s been a major piece of legislation passed in a partisan way. That’s not change we can believe in.” It is, in fact, not change at all – but it’s also not what President Obama intended before the Party of No started its shenanigans. In 2004, Republican Dennis Hastert launched a blatantly partisan policy “in which Congress will pass bills only if most House Republicans back them, regardless of how many Democrats favor them.” And let’s not forget Bush’s executive order calling a halt to embryonic stem cell research. During the Bush Administration, even the “untouchable” Justice Department was hijacked in favor of partisan politics.

And finally we get to the mid-term elections – also, I imagine, the 2012 presidential election – and the Republican strategy. The Republicans, said Graham, are “gonna highlight the fact that they [Democrats] say one thing and do another.”

I’m relieved to hear that – an opposition campaign should be easy, since what’s become glaringly obvious about the Republicans is that they say one thing -- and do nothing.