Healthcare reform 'fixes' pass, but is bipartisanship lost?
Other large social programs like Medicare and Social Security passed with strong bipartisan majorities, but healthcare reform and its package of 'fixes' lacked a single Republican vote. Republican leaders call the process used to pass healthcare reform a 'game-changer.'
After a late-breaking glitch over 20 words, the package of “fixes” essential to win passage of a sweeping healthcare reform bill cleared the House and Senate on Thursday, promising access to healthcare to some 31 million now-uninsured Americans.Skip to next paragraph
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But lawmakers are just beginning to assess the cost of moving a vast new social entitlement without a single Republican vote – a first for the US Congress. Both Social Security and Medicare cleared Congress with big, bipartisan majorities.
Democrats say Americans will soon forget the go-it-alone process used to move this historic legislation as they come to know its benefits.
“Last year, a supermajority in the United States Senate passed the most crucial social, economic, and moral change in several generations. Just a couple of days ago, the president signed that into law. And today we made that law even better,” said Senate majority leader Harry Reid at a briefing after the Senate vote.
Senate Democrats lost their 60-vote supermajority with the Feb. 4 swearing in of Sen. Scott Brown (R) of Massachusetts, who campaigned to be the 41st senator to defeat healthcare reform. Under regular order, Democrats would have had to come back to the Senate with a compromise version of healthcare reform acceptable to both the House and Senate. Instead, House Democrats agreed to pass the Senate’s version of healthcare reform with no changes, then pass “fixes” in a separate bill, using complex budget “reconciliation” procedures requiring only a majority vote.
Republicans charge that that two-step process was unfair to the public and to the minority and has damaged the Senate. “The process was sleazy and it disgusted most Americans," says Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) of South Carolina. "Reconciliation was used in a way to nullify the election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts. It turned the Senate upside down.”
“This bill and the process is a game-changer for the way the minority will operate in perpetuity in the Senate,” he added. “The president has lost some moral authority to lead this country in the future and to make hard decisions.”
Coming from other Republicans, that charge might be seen as partisan boilerplate. But Senator Graham has been one of the rare Republicans to cross party lines to work with President Obama and Democrats on issues ranging from immigration and climate change to US military commissions and treatment of detained terrorism suspects.