Editorial: Health for the holidays

Published On:
Monday, November 23, 2009
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This week, two Senators from each of the 50 states will take planes, trains and automobiles home for the Thanksgiving holiday and spend a few days eating turkey and watching football along with the rest of the nation.

But when the Thanksgiving recess ends, the health care debate will begin in earnest on the Senate floor, and these 100 people will have to decide whether monumental health care legislation pushed by Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., will become law.

It wasn’t an easy road to this point: With Republicans threatening to filibuster, the Democrats in the Senate banded together — along with two independents that align with the party — to bring the legislation to the Senate floor.

But with this $848-billion, 10-year plan proposing the biggest changes to U.S. health care since Medicare, the means by which Senators are “uniting” on health care reform is just another example of the ugliness of partisan politics. At the very least, votes aren’t exactly being garnered in an “over the counter” manner.

Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund reported Friday, prior to Saturday’s vote that pushed the measure to debate on the Senate floor, that Reid was “passing out goodies” to undecided Senators from the Democratic delegation. Goodies in the form of $100-million Medicare subsidies written into an amendment for undecided Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., promising that the subsidies can only be used in her home state, for example.

When it comes to “reordering one-sixth of the nation’s economy,” as Fund described the health care debate, Reid’s vote-getting tactics are part of his strategy to gain support from party loyalists rather than reaching across the aisle, a move the Journal said would require him to “pare ambitions and push a more modest bill.”

Though the debate is still to be waged in the Senate, Saturday’s vote was a huge victory for the Democrats. A Congressional Research Service analysis found only one instance between 1999 and 2008 when Senate legislation failed after clearing the hurdle to begin debate, according to Bloomberg News.

But as fiery rhetoric flies from both sides, one variable may shape the way the battle is waged and temper the conversation about health care reform: the holidays.

Yes, with Thanksgiving break only days away, it’s nearly the “most wonderful time of the year,” and as a New York Times article pointed out Sunday, political attack advertisements aren’t very well-received when Americans start adopting the rare and seasonal “peace on earth, goodwill toward men” mentality.

According to the Times, all sides in the health care debate have spent a combined $170 million on television advertising so far this year — the most ever spent on single-issue advocacy commercials in one calendar year.

Maybe this year, along with the various magical effects of the holiday season, good old St. Nick will bring us a tempered, rational health care debate, with positive economic impact brought about by ethical maneuverings within Congress.

Hey, it’s the holidays — we can dream, can’t we?