Posts tagged with 'ted kennedy'

Weekly Pulse: What Does Coakley’s Defeat Mean for Health Care Reform?

Posted Jan 20, 2010 @ 12:49 pm by
Filed under: Health Care     Bookmark and Share

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium Blogger

Last night, Republican Scott Brown defeated Democrat Martha Coakley in the special election to fill Teddy Kennedy’s senate seat in Massachusetts. Coakley’s loss puts health care reform in jeopardy.

With Coakley’s defeat, the Democrats lose their filibuster-proof 60-seat majority in the Senate. However, as Paul Waldman explains in The American Prospect, Coakley’s loss is not the end for health care reform.

Remember, the Senate already passed its health care reform bill in December. Now, the House has to pass its version of the bill. The original plan was for House and Senate leaders to blend the two bills together in conference to create a final piece of legislation (AKA a conference report) that both houses would vote on. Once the Democrats are down to 59 votes, the Republicans can filibuster the conference report and kill health care reform.

But if the House passes the same bill the Senate just passed, there’s no need to reconcile the two bills. This so-called “ping pong” approach may be the best way to salvage health care reform. Some of the flaws in the Senate bill could still be fixed later through budget reconciliation. It would be an uphill battle, but nothing compared to starting health care reform from scratch.

The second option would be to get the bill done before Scott Brown is sworn in. According to Waldman, there could be a vote within 10 days. The House and Senate have already drafted some compromise legislation, which Waldman thinks is superior to the straight Senate bill. If that language were sent to the Congressional Budget Office immediately, the Senate could vote before Brown is sworn in.

Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said in a statement last night that Brown won’t be sworn in until the election results are certified, a process that could take two weeks. Historically, the winners of special Senate elections have taken over from their interim predecessors within a couple of days. If the Republicans were in this position, they’d use every procedural means at their disposal to drag out the process. The question is whether the Democrats have the fortitude to make the system work for them.

Remember how the Republicans did everything in their power to hold up the Senate health care vote, including forcing the clerk to read the 767-page bill aloud? They were trying to delay the vote until after the Massachusetts special election. If it’s okay for the GOP to stall, the Democrats should be allowed to drag their feet on swearing in Brown.

Also, remember how the Republicans fought to keep Al Franken from being seated after he defeated Norm Coleman?  For his part, Franken says he’s determined to pass health care reform one way or another, according to Rachel Slajda of Talking Points Memo.

Incongruously, some Democrats are arguing that rushing to a vote would be a violation of some vague democratic principle. Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) wasted no time in proclaiming that there should be no vote before Brown was sworn in. Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), of all people, averred last night that the Democrats should respect the democratic process and start acting like they have 59 votes while they still have 60.

All this talk of  “respecting the process” is hand waving disguised as civics. According to the process, Scott Brown isn’t the senator from Massachusetts yet. According to the process, you have the votes until you don’t.

Talk about moving the goalposts. It’s bad enough that we need 60 votes to pass a bill on any given day. Now, they’d have us believe that we also need 60 votes next week. Webb and Frank are arguing that Brown’s victory obliges Democrats to behave as if Brown were already the Senator from Massachusetts. Of course, if Webb won’t play ball, it’s a moot point. The whole fast-track strategy is predicated on 60 votes. Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly thinks that Webb effectively took the fast-track option off the table with his strongly worded statement.

Katrina vanden Huevel of The Nation argues that this historic upset should be a wake up call to President Barack Obama to embrace populism with renewed fervor. I would add that Obama was elected on a platform of hope and change. There is no better way to fulfill a promise of change than to reshape the nation’s health care system and provide insurance for millions of Americans.

Ping pong, anyone?

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Weekly Immigration Wire: Kennedy Was Friend to Immigrants

Posted Aug 27, 2009 @ 11:00 am by
Filed under: Immigration     Bookmark and Share

By Nezua, TMC Mediawire Blogger

Sen. Ted Kennedy’s death yesterday was a blow to the immigrant community, as New America Media reports. For over 40 years, Kennedy was a tireless fighter for immigrant rights and is remembered for many valuable accomplishments, not the least in making possible the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which did away with the national-origin quotas that had been in effect in the US since 1924. Additionally, Kennedy help bring a close to the exploitive Bracero program, which supplied the U.S. cheap and temporary labor during World War II in the form of Mexican farm laborers who did not have proper protections or rights. Senator Kennedy also helped author the AgJobs bill of 2003, which gave undocumented farmers residency so they could continue working in the U.S. His legacy in the progress of immigration legislation is not in doubt.

The Massachusetts Senator was a vigorous proponent of both Healthcare and Immigration Reform, which isn’t surprising when you consider how much these two issues overlap. In last week’s Wire, we touched on this confluence. Despite the White House’s attempt to compartmentalize the two issues, Immigration continues sit front and center in the Healthcare discussion, often through dishonest argument by reform opponents.

The problem is, if the White House withdraws as an authoritative and reasonable voice on immigration and immigrants, the conversation will be taken over by anti-immigrant fringe groups. Arturo Sandoval of the New Mexico Independent describes the town hall debate during which a protester suggested that a “bullet in the head” was a solution to the idea that the U.S. has millions of undocumented within her borders. The “facts don’t support this xenophobic response,” Sandoval writes. Furthermore, the needs of the U.S. economy “pull” workers into the country. The immigrant workforce is then scapegoated for responding to that need.

The Washington Independent makes it clear that xenophobic sentiment, also championed by members of the Republican party, is not a wise political move. Daphne Eviatar attended town hall meetings where fact-resistant crowds shouted at lawmakers for “seeking to provide healthcare to illegal immigrants.” Eviatar pins much blame on “the anger fomented by anti-healthcare reform groups” which has given way to “nativist death threats.”

But it’s hard to blame the uninformed for the entirety of their hostility. Our government’s “moral compass,” as E.L. Doctorow called it, points toward criminalizing the immigrant community and all Latino/as by extension. By all appearances, the Obama administration is pursuing an enforcement agenda, and has yet to publicly acknowledge why the immigrant community is vital to the country’s prosperity. Between abundant right-wing radio hate and state-sanctioned raids and detentions, how is a scared, half-informed person supposed to feel about today’s undocumented population?

Senator Jon Kyl (R-Ariz) proposes—with no trace of sarcasm or shame—that the undocumented be denied urgent hospitcal care in every city. Or, as TAPPED’s Adam Serwer puts it, Kyl Thinks Illegal Immigration is a Capitol Crime. Serwer points out that, as evidenced by Kyl’s own words, the Senator thinks “illegal immigration” “should be punishable by death.” The facts do not support the “pro-life” Senator’s accusations about immigrants, and Serwer writes that in any case, such treatment would be “immoral and inhumane.”

And yet people give voice to such vile and un-American notions every day. In doing so, they publicly provide reinforcement for measures like 287(g), which has been recently rearranged to appear more palatable, yet expanded in scope. Alternet describes another recent superficial makeover: The Department of Homeland Security Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) rescinded its self-imposed quotas, and now offers to self-monitor their internal operations. But “how many more detainee deaths under ICE’s custody remain unreported?” And why should ICE be trusted to oversee itself?

Looking ahead to the battle over Immigration reform, Patrick Young of RaceWire offers activists and advocates “Four Healthcare Debate Takeaways For The Immigration Reform Fight.” Young’s breakdown includes down to earth, pragmatic glimpses of a rough terrain. “The argument will not be about the issues,” he writes. Sizable portions of the public have adopted a sound-byte awareness operating too often independent of fact. The good news is, “this can be countered.”

In other immigration news, Truthdig remembers Sacco and Vanzetti, two Italian immigrants executed in Massachusetts eighty-two years ago after a “dubious trial for murders someone else later confessed to.” The article highlights a Howard Zinn essay on the incident, who wrote that the case of Sacco and Vanzetti revealed “in its starkest terms, that the noble words inscribed above our courthouses, ‘Equal Justice Before the Law,’ have always been a lie.” Considered outsiders at the time, the law of the land saw fit to view the two immigrants as disposable.

In today’s immigration dialogue, Mexicans are most often thought of as the immigrant outsiders. And while Mexican migrants do comprise roughly 57% of the undocumented [pdf of 2004 Pew Hispanic poll findings], Irish, Polish, Guatemalan, and Asian American and Pacific Islander communities (AAPI) are an important part of the undocumented population. AAPIs are now asking “How Much Longer Can We Wait for Immigration Reform?” “The debate has been raging on for several years, without any positive resolution,” writes Sara Sadhwani, the Director of the Immigrant Rights Project at the Asian Pacific American Legal Center of Southern California.

Finally, of no small note is a ruling by the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last Thursday that in essence, did away with the possibility of unlimited detention of the undocumented. The three-judge panel ruled that detainees held in custody for longer than six months without appearing before a judge have the right to file a class action suit. This bestows a right to the undocumented that citizens might take for granted by now: the right to a trail undertaken in a “swift and timely fashion,” as New America Media reports.

In memory of Ted Kennedy, who did much to bring dignity and health to all people regardless of their race, class, or origins, let us fight on for the well being of all, and not rest until the dream lives.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration and is free to reprint. Visit for a complete list of articles on immigration, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy and health issues, check out and This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and was created by NewsLadder.

Weekly Pulse: Healthcare Reform Without Kennedy

Posted Aug 26, 2009 @ 11:08 am by
Filed under: Health Care     Bookmark and Share

By Lindsay Beyerstein, TMC MediaWire Blogger

One of healthcare reform’s greatest champions died last night. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) succumbed to brain cancer at the age of 77. During his 46-year career in the senate, Kennedy’s name appeared on virtually every major piece of progressive legislation from civil rights to economic justice, to healthcare. Kennedy called healthcare reform “the cause of my life.”

Jack Newfield of The Nation remembers Kennedy as the senate’s fighting liberal, the “best and most effective senator of the past hundred years.”

James Ridgeway of Mother Jones laments:

We are left with weak, squabbling, visionless Democratic puppets and a President whose domestic reform policies are adrift—sliding towards the horizon with each passing day.

The loss is a blow to healthcare reform. Alex Koppelman of Salon notes that with Kennedy’s passing, the Democrats have lost one of their most effective bipartisan deal-makers. Democrats will also be down a vote in the senate for the foreseeable future because Massachusetts state law doesn’t allow for the appointment of an immediate replacement.

Naturally, with congress on vacation, wackos are rushing in to fill the media vacuum. Eric Boehlert asks in AlterNet why Republicans the only ones allowed to get angry about healthcare reform, or anything else. He notes that in 2003, the media decided that Howard Dean was too angry for prime time. During the Republican National Convention in 2008, SWAT teams were sent to raid the homes of suspected anarchist protesters. And yet, conservative demonstrators in Arizona are allowed to tote rifles just outside the security perimeter of a presidential event.

RNC Chair Michael Steele raised eyebrows by championing single-payer healthcare in an op/ed in the Washington Post framing the GOP as defenders of Medicare.

Odd that Steele has so much love for Medicare, but none for the nation’s other leading source of government-run healthcare, the Veterans Administration (VA). This week, Steele accused America’s other leading public insurance provider of encouraging veterans to commit suicide, based on a booklet published by the VA which explains living wills, advanced directives and other key concepts in end-of-life care, Rachel Slajda reports for TPM DC.

Progressives have been doing a great job debunking the death panel and death book myths, like this creative photo essay from TPM. But we’re scarcely addressing  the misconception that underlies them: The idea government-administered health insurance is inherently more prone to rationing than private health insurance.

Newt Gingrich and other prominent opponents of reform claim that a public option will restrict choices and deny care. What they don’t say is that for-profit insurance is rationing. When your insurance company covers an old drug for your condition, but not a new one with fewer side effects, that’s rationing. The company is restricting your treatment choices to improve its bottom line. When an employer or an insurer decides not to cover mental health care, that’s rationing. The entire business model is predicated on charging people more and giving them less care so there’s more money left over for the stockholders.

No health insurance can cover every treatment, no matter who runs it. But public insurance has two major advantages: 1) Public insurance tends to be cheaper to administer; 2) The tough choices about what to cover are ultimately in the hands of the voters, not health insurance bureaucrats with an eye on the bottom line.

The whole town hall concept is turning out to be a strategic blunder for the White House. The format makes legislators and the media sitting ducks for extremists and astroturfers who want to paint themselves as typical citizens. As Sandy Heierbacher of the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation writes in YES Magazine:

[T]he town hall design sets the stage for activist groups and special interest groups to try to ‘game’ the system and sideline other concerned citizens in the process. As Martin Carcasson, director of Colorado State University’s Center for Public Deliberation, recently pointed out, “the loudest voices are the ones that get heard, and typically the majority voices in the middle don’t even show up because it becomes a shouting match.”

How much more clear can the Republicans be? They are not interested in bipartisanship. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), supposedly the Senate’s leading reasonable Republican on healthcare, couldn’t even be bothered to rebuke a town hall participant who hinted about assassinating the president, as Raw Story reports.

If the Democrats want healthcare reform, they are going to have to go it alone. Let’s hope they pass a bill that would make Sen. Kennedy proud.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about healthcare and is free to reprint. Visit for a complete list of articles on healthcare affordability, healthcare laws, and healthcare controversy. For the best progressive reporting on the Economy, and Immigration, check out and

This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and created by NewsLadder.