It’s time for the Senate to hold a straight-up vote on its health care bill. The Congressional Budget Office has come back with its estimate, which puts the total cost at $849 billion, meeting President Obama’s requirement that the legislation not “add one dime” to the deficit.
It would ensure up to 94 percent of Americans. It would prevent insurance companies from barring people because of pre-existing conditions. It’s not a perfect bill but it’s a step in the right direction.
The Senate measure is similar in scope to legislation the House approved earlier this month. It would require most people to buy insurance, and if their employers did not offer affordable coverage, they would be able to shop for policies on new state-based “exchanges” that would function as marketplaces for individual coverage. Insurance companies would have to abide by broad new rules that would ban practices such as denying coverage based on preexisting conditions.
But the bills diverge on other key provisions. The House version would require all but the smallest businesses to offer insurance, while the Senate measure would merely fine companies for not offering affordable coverage. The Senate bill would bar illegal immigrants from buying insurance through the exchanges, while the House would restrict access only to subsidies and federal programs such as Medicaid, which would be vastly expanded under both bills.
Still, there are many senators who don’t like it. If they don’t like it because it’s too expensive or too coercive or “socialism,” they should vote against it, right?
But it’s not that simple. The Republicans and a few of their allies, like Joe Lieberman, are proposing to prevent the bill from coming to a vote. It takes a super-majority to “invoke cloture,” a procedure which allows an actual vote on the bill. Many senators seem to fear the democratic action of allowing a vote.
If Republicans really believe that Americans will hate the results of the health care legislation and vote them out because of its consequences, they should allow the vote to take place, right?