by Mary AD
While everyone was watching Michael Jackson on
every channel except maybe the Golf Channel,
I have been watching the HELP Committee hearings
HELP stands for Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
and is chaired by Sen. Ted Kennedy.
Since Kennedy has been ill, the acting chair
of the committee is Chris Dodd. Listening to this committee
is sort of like watching Star Wars. Senator
Dodd is Obi Wan Kenobi (our only hope) and his Jedi council
is made up of fellow democrats Patty Murray of
WA, Barbara Mikulski of MD, and Jeff Bingaman of NM.
For a complete list of committee members, look
This shows 22 members, but think there are 13
Democrats and 10 Republicans. The Darth Vader of this
committee is Sen. Tom Coburn, (R-Likes to Hear
Himself Talk) of Oklahoma. Since Coburn is a former OB-GYN,
he knows everything and the rest of the committee
members know nothing. Over the last two weeks, tons of
amendments have been presented to the committee
and the democratic ones pass every time and the republican
ones seldom make it.
Essentially, the republicans are trying to “amendment”
the democrats to death to stall for time. Most of their
amendments want to take money from a possible
single payer program and move it into some private insurance program.
They also have lots of digressions about possible
government-funded abortion. Coburn referred to his treatment of women
with an ectopic pregnancy as an abortion.
One surprise was that even though John McCain
is a member of this committee, he didn’t show up for a single
meeting until today. All senators voted
by proxy when not in attendance. Sen. Burr of NC was all shook up
about the definition of family. It wasn’t
clear whether he was worried about gays or immigrants getting benefits!
The person who stood up the most for the common
man was Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Senators Bingaman
and Mikulski asked the most questions about the
nonstop Coburn amendments. They all but said “That’s bullshit because….”
Sen. Dodd’s sister passed away last week and briefly
the committee was chaired by Tom Harkin, D-Confused.
He made several procedural errors but clearly
had good intentions. Here’s
a link to today’s hearing:
The republicans on the committee who were knowledgeable
and respectful were ranking member Mike Enzi-WY
and Lisa Murkowski-AK. The red headed stranger
on the committee was committee staffer David Bowen who
politely answered even the most bone-headed questions.
I think this is all going to the Congressional Budget Office
after today’s markup session. As someone
with no insurance, I am hoping something good will come out of this committee!
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