The US Senate's popular anti-trafficking bill remains stalled in its tracks, President Obama's Attorney General pick hasn't received a vote on her nomination, and now the fate of a bipartisan Medicare reform effort is in peril -- all thanks to Harry Reid and his obstructionist Democratic caucus. We'll address that last point in more detail shortly, but first, some background: Whenever Democrats screamed about Republican obstructionism in recent years, they inevitably failed to mention that many GOP 'filibusters' were retaliation for Reid's unprecedented use of a method called "filling the amendment tree." This parliamentary maneuver is designed to block votes on any amendments to legislation under consideration. Unable to even get a hearing on desired changes to bills, Republicans answered Reid's control freak dysfunction by objecting to votes. By contrast, Mitch McConnell allowed more amendment votes in the month of January alone than Reid did in the entirety of 2014. Even with the new GOP majority, though, Democrats have blocked almost everything coming down the pike, capped off by President Obama's indefensible veto of the popular Keystone Pipeline project. This is Obama's Washington: Polarized, angry, inept. Which brings us back to the proposed Medicare fix, forged in lengthy negotiations between John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi, and endorsed by everyone from Think Progress to Paul Ryan. Here's the new House Ways and Means Committee Chairman making the conservative case for the deal:
In 1997, Congress tried to put a lid on Medicare's costs by capping doctor payments with a formula called the "sustainable growth rate." Under the law, if Medicare spent more than the cap in one year, it would have to compensate by cutting doctor payments in the next. But this quick fix was no fix at all. Costs continued to soar as doctors performed more treatments to make up for the pay cuts. And when the threat of automatic cuts loomed, Congress simply postponed them — 17 times. Meanwhile, doctors took time away from patients just to keep watch on Congress...So my colleagues and I have come up with a bipartisan plan to replace these arbitrary cuts with real reforms. Our plan would strengthen Medicare by encouraging better care and rewarding doctors for better results...Right now, Medicare pays doctors for every single treatment they perform — with no regard for the patient's overall health. It rewards quantity, not quality, of care. And 10,000 baby boomers are joining Medicare every day, so costs are growing out of control. Our plan would start to move us to a patient-centered system. We would cancel the cuts and instead give doctors a modest increase for the next five years. Every year after, doctor payments would grow to depend more and more on results. Our plan would set up one streamlined program that would reward doctors who met performance goals and improved seniors' health. Over time, Medicare would reward quality over quantity, and seniors would get better care because of it.
Ryan goes on to list two additional structural reforms the bill would implement: Means-testing for wealthier seniors, and limiting "Medigap" insurance to make sure that seniors aren't completely insulated from the costs associated with overusing healthcare, which costs taxpayers big time. These changes won't fix Medicare's enormous unfunded liability problem (Ryan's bipartisan solution, included in this year's GOP budget blueprint, would advance that ball much farther), but they're better than nothing. Some conservatives have raised specific policy objections to the proposal, but the plan has won support from quite a lot of righties, who see it as an opportunity to reject allowing the perfect to become an enemy of the good -- and as a constructive way to adopt needed smaller-scale reforms. Despite the careful negotiations and cross-partisan support, Harry Reid and company are threatening to derail the whole thing, pitting themselves against House Democratic leadership. Why? Abortion. Reid, at the abortion lobby's behest, is complaining that the compromise goes too far in restricting taxpayer funding of abortion -- a practice that's been generally barred for decades, and is deeply unpopular with the public. This abortion obsession is the same snag that has prevented a bill to help sex-trafficking victims from becoming law. As I've noted previously, Reid has lurched to Nancy Pelosi's left on this issue, abandoning his long-time posturing as a "pro-life" Democrat. Here's what he said in support of an anti-abortion-funding provision in Obamacare: "My belief in the sanctity of life is why I have repeatedly voted against using taxpayer money for abortions." Now he's blocking two important, bipartisan bills in defense of unpopular abortion funding. Planned Parenthood's well-financed, extreme agenda is in control of the United States Senate. I'll leave you with a web ad the NRSC is running against Colorado Democrat Michael Bennet, hitting him for joining the radical Reid filibuster of anti-trafficking legislation:
Republicans have also deployed robocalls against Reid and others on the issue. The contemptible Senate Minority Leader is up for re-election in Nevada next year.