The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes
Friday, April 16, 2004
Understanding Kerry's AWOL on the Medicare bill
(Following up April 13 piece.)
The Medicare Act (HR 1) looks as if it's going to be an important Dem talking-point. So worthwhile sorting out - in my mind (I'm not supposing anyone else is confused) - exactly what game Senate Democrats in general, and John Kerry is particular, were playing as the conference report reached the Senate floor.
A glance at the page for HR 1 entitled All Bill Summary and Status (ABSS)  will show the report was first considered on the Senate floor on November 22 2003. A number of Dems were strongly opposed, included Ted Kennedy, who, following the shenanigans surrounding the House vote on passage , promised a filibuster (CNN November 22).
Kerry, too, was riled: on November 23, he issued a press release which reported that
While campaigning in New Hampshire today, John Kerry announced that he will return to Washington this evening to join his colleagues in filibustering a Medicare bill that is little more than a boondoggle for the big pharmaceutical companies that have resisted a real prescription drug benefit for so long.
Kerry does indeed speak on the floor, on November 24. He is flatly against the bill.
What happened to that filibuster? Odd thing: according to the ABSS, there was a cloture motion (Roll Call 457) but that came after Kerry spoke.
Yet, Kerry's speech is followed by the Presiding Officer saying
The Senator's time has expired.
That's not my idea of a filibuster!
The debates amount to around 2 MB of HTML - wading can wait a while.
Striking, though, are the Roll Calls. On cloture (457, on November 24 at 1239 EST), the vote was 70-29. The 22 Dems voting for cloture were (those 10 voting against 458 - see below - in italics):
The Democrats voting to break the filibuster are thus very far from the DINOs (eg, Miller, Breaux and Landrieu) who we've seen popping up supporting reactionary measures like the partial birth abortion and the Comstock bills.
With Daschle as Benedict Arnold in Chief. With a full Dem turnout (26 Dems opposing the motion), that makes 46% of Senate Democrats backing the Big Pharma Bonanza.
A further Roll Call - 458 on November 24 at 1521 EST - which also required a three-fifths majority passed 61-39.
[For ease of reference, I'll repeat the list of 11 Dems voting for the conference report on RC 459:
That is the 12 Dems who voted for 458, minus Murray of WV; Murray voted against 459.]
The 458 motion is to waive CBA - some kind of Budget approval, which I assume is a technical thing like waiving reading of the journal. Why the difference in the Dem voting? Was the two vote margin on 458 calibrated?
Why wasn't the cloture voting calibrated? Surely, if the Dem leadership had decided to rim Big Pharma, they'd want to tar the minimum number of Dem Senators? The inference is, that stuff wasn't tar - it was gravy.
And back to Kerry.
On both votes to date, he's been present and voting on the side of the angels.
Then comes RC 459, on the conference report (November 25 0923 EST), and he's gone AWOL.
The Note - as I said - is on Thanksgiving hiatus on November 25. The November 20 edition has the following intelligence:
Nov. 25-26, 2003: Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) campaigns in Iowa
If he stuck to his schedule, that - one might hope - would be because he knew there was no hope of persuading the necessary Dems to defeat the bill.
Which would be logical, given the long list of Dems who supported the procedural votes requiring qualified majorities (obviously much easier to block for opponents of the bill).
The research continues.
Unpicking the motivations of the pro-Pharma Dem Senators will be a job of work, I suspect.
For instance, after HR 1 passed, Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) (CNN November 25),
said senators had "squandered the opportunity to truly change history and to truly change the lives of senior citizens" by providing them with "a skimpy benefit."
Yeah. And I'm sure she still believes in Santa, too.
I don't know Mikulski from a hole in the ground. She is nominated to fight her seat again in November for a fourth term and, contribution-wise, looks in clover (numbers as of February 11 2004). She's shown as having received $78,000 from health-related PACs, and around $64,000 from Finance, Insurance (of total receipts of $2.8 million).
She is rated a Populist-Leaning Liberal by OnTheIssues.
That information no help in explaining the woman's votes on HR 1, but one has to start somewhere...
Kerry was on his feet at Thomas Jefferson High School in Council Bluffs, IA on November 25. But according to this piece on the November 24 debate in Iowa,
Kerry and Edwards participated from Washington, where they were awaiting Senate votes on Medicare.
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