Oceania has always been at war with the Washington Generals, 9/11 responder edition
The Senate Republicans did what they said they'd do today -- they blocked a bill aimed at providing over $7 billion in federal money for 9/11 responders and their families because it came before a vote on taxes. But despite the almost scripted outcome, Democratic Senators behind the bill seemed shocked at the outcome.
Almost scripted? Geez. Look, the Senate Democrats are the Washington Generals, its not that the Harlem Globetrotters are so scary good, its that Washington's not really playing to win. So let's approach this as if our goal is to, I dunno, provide healthcare to 9/11 responders... Let's see, is there already a govt program that provides healthcare? Why yes there is, its called Medicare (part of the Social Security Act of 1935 as amended). So is there some kind of legislative method, other than faith-based lawmaking, that'd allow the Democrats to expand Medicare eligibility by preventing
Emmanuel Goldstein Mitch McConnell and his fellow Republicans from outrageously blocking yet another bill with the 60 vote rule? Yes again. As it happens, govt spending programs can be expanded as part of a filibuster-proof budget reconciliation act. Indeed that's how President Clinton added the S-CHIP healthcare program to the Social Security Act.
So if the Senate Democrats really really cared about 9/11 responders, they could have passed a law (by a majority-vote reconciliation bill if necessary) to expand the eligibility of the existing Medicare program to cover them instead of making them-- or anyone else for that matter-- wait for the baroque new private insurance exchange/mandate system that doesn't get rolling till 2014. For good measure, they could have exempted this new Medicare spending from the pointless "budget neutral rules". OK, here's the sick part--- THEY ALREADY DID THAT...
Just before the Senate approved the HCR bill last year, Max Baucus added a section that expanded Medicare eligibility to cover the residents of the environmental disaster which is Libby, MT. While he was at it, he gave the HHS Secretary authority to add other groups impacted by environmental emergencies. Naturally, this Medicare expansion, which is funded out of the Medicare trust funds (so there's no appropriation for the GOP to de-fund), was made exempt from the budget neutrality rules. After all, deficit hysteria is the socialism of rubes.
It would take a lot fewer than 57 senators to shut the Senate down until such time as the Secretary used her authority to provide Medicare to 9/11 responders. Christ, if Jim DeMint had wanted this to happen, he'd have shut the place down single-handedly till he had a copy of Sebelius's emergency declaration in his hands.
‘(B) OPTIONAL PILOT PROGRAMS.— The
Secretary may establish a separate pilot pro-
gram, in accordance with this subsection, with
respect to each geographic area subject to an
emergency declaration (other than the declara-
tion of June 17, 2009), in order to furnish such
comprehensive, coordinated and cost-effective
care to individuals described in subparagraph
(2)(B) who reside in each such area…
The Secretary shall provide for the transfer, from the Federal
Hospital Insurance Trust Fund under section 1817 and
the Federal Supplementary Medical Insurance Trust
Fund under section 1841, in such proportion as the
Secretary determines appropriate, of such sums as the
Secretary determines necessary...
The Secretary shall not require that pilot programs under
this subsection be budget neutral with respect to ex-
penditures under this title.