It wasn't exactly under the cover of darkness, but it was under the cover of the ongoing drama in Egypt that the U.S. Senate attempted a vote on repealing Obamacare.
After vowing it would never come to the floor, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) allowed a vote on Wednesday to consider the legislation which passed the House in January by a vote of 245 to 189. Three Democrats joined all 243 Republicans in that vote.
As you know by now it takes 60 votes to get a bill to the floor in the Senate. After whining and moaning for two years about how Republicans were blocking the business of the Senate by refusing to provide the necessary 60 votes, Democrats blocked consideration of the repeal by a vote of 47-51. Straight party line.
So, if Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) knew this had no chance of getting to the floor, why bother?
It's because of that pesky Constitution which requires that only a third of the Senate is up for election every two years (as opposed to all the Members of the House). Because of the huge gains the Democrats made in the 2006 election, they have to defend 23 seats in November 2012. Republicans only have to defend 10.
McConnell wanted to get those 23 (or however many of them are still running 21 months from now) on the record as defending last year's vote in favor of Obamacare.
As Jennifer Rubin wrote in her Washington Post essay:
"Every Democrat in the Senate is on record as supporting the health-spending bill, even as a growing chorus of Americans are calling on them to repeal it."
Given what happened in the House last November, this was a good plan.
However, that this went on during the total domination of the news by the events in Egypt was a pretty smart move by Reid.If this had been a normal news week, both sides would have been pounding the cable news shows; there would have been so many third party ads you would have heard them in your teeth; and soon-to-be-ex-White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs would have been railing against Senate Republicans.
While both sides (in both chambers) have played out the Kabuki Dance of repeal, as the print edition of the Washington Post pointed out:
Two federal judges have struck at a key provision of the legislation, ruling that Congress cannot force individuals to buy health insurance. These cases are almost certainly headed for the Supreme Court, which many predict will decide the law's fate by the spring of 2012.
Remember in the good old days when Democrats controlling everything in Washington and we were assured that judicial challenges to Obamacare were a waste of time, money, and legal intellect? Not so sure any more, are we.
The Democrat-controlled Senate did join the Republican-controlled House in repealing that portion of Obamacare which required small businesses to file IRS 1099 forms for any vendor to whom they paid $600 or more.
Keep in mind this provision was put into the health care bill by Democrats last year to help pay for Obamacare. Someone should ask the Congressional Budget Office to re-score the law without this provision.
Attacks on journalists - maybe all journalists but we are only hearing about American journalists - in Egypt are troubling, but may lead to wider questions.
As we have discussed before journalists consider themselves to be a protected class like Priests, Rabbis, doctors and lawyers. The big difference is: Anyone can claim they are a reporter.
We generally expect that the others on that list to have convinced some official body that, at a minimum, they (a) understand the New Testament, (b) understand the Old Testament, (c) can tell a pancreas from a great toe, or (d) can tell a writ of mandamus from a temporary restraining order depending upon their specialty.
I am not in favor of thugs attacking reporters, any more than I am in favor of thugs attacking anyone else. When I was in Iraq, reporters had the word "PRESS" emblazoned on their clothing and vehicles.
People who were fluent in Arabic came to recognize the odd symbols which made up the word "PRESS," understood they were reporters and, for the most part, let them alone.
It may be time for major news outlets to pool coverage of events like the Tahrir Square demonstrations and attempt to gain competitive advantage not from better video, but better analysis.