Senate Finance Committee

Bob Dole, An Historic Figure, And True American Hero, Dies At Age 98!

Former Kansas Senator Bob Dole, the Vice Presidential running mate of Gerald Ford in 1976, and Republican Presidential nominee in 1996 against Bill Clinton, passed away on Sunday at the advanced age of 98!

Dole served nearly 40 years in American national government, including service in the House of Representatives from Kansas, as well as the Senate.

Dole was a true American hero, and suffered immensely when wounded in World War II as the war in Europe neared an end in April 1945, and spent three plus years in a military hospital recovering, and never had the use of his right arm, as a result of grievous injuries.

Dole was an historic figure, who fought hard for his Republican views, but also had humanity and a sense of humor, and often worked across the aisle with Democrats.

Dole served as Senate Majority Leader and Senate Minority Leader, and was also Republican National Chairman at one point, as well as Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

Dole is a giant figure in the history of the Republican Party, and was well regarded by politicians in both parties, and millions of Americans!

The Senate Finance Committee Vote And Senator Olympia Snowe

Today’s 14-9 vote by the Senate Finance Committee on the so called Baucus bill on health care reform, with every Democrat and Republican Olympia Snowe voting yes, is a welcome moment, but it is not enough.

The lack of a public option in the bill means that the Baucus bill cannot be accepted as it is. Since Olympia Snowe does not promise that she will support the ultimate health care bill that is reconciled between the House and the Senate, we can thank her for her support, making the proposal slightly bipartisan, but not allow her to dictate the final version of the bill, as the price for her vote.

Optimism is arising that the health care bill will pass by Thanksgiving, and if it does, it will be the ultimate triumph of a vision first enunciated by former President Theodore Roosevelt in the 1912 presidential election when he was the candidate of the Progressive Party for President.

“Reconciliation” And The Senate Finance Committee

A group of six members of the Senate Finance Committee, often called “The Gang of Six”, is trying to draw up a bill on health care that will be acceptable to the whole committee and to the Senate, when it returns in mid September.

The three Democrats in the group are Max Baucus of Montana (the chair of the committee), Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, and Kent Conrad of North Dakota.

The surprising news coming out is that Baucus and Bingaman are now willing to consider “reconciliation”, to support the passage of a “public option” by a 51 vote majority of the Senate, overcoming the danger of a filibuster.

So far, Kent Conrad has been reluctant to go that far, and has promoted non profit coops as an alternative, but it is seen as possible he might come over to the view of his two Democratic colleagues.

Were that to happen, it would be a major step forward toward adoption of a public option, even if not one GOP member in either house backs it.

While this is not the preferred way to get health care legislation through Congress, the refusal of Republicans to show any support for reform is forcing this possible direction on the debate.

The Senate Finance Committee “Gang Of Six” And Health Care Legislation

I am a big lover of the US Senate and am the author of a book on senators during the New Deal, many of whom came from small Midwestern and Western states, so I understand fully how much senators from small states can have an impact.

Therefore, I am particularly interested in the reality that six senators from small states –three Democrats (Max Baucus of Montana, Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, Kent Conrad of North Dakota) and three Republicans (Charles Grassley of Iowa, Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Olympia Snowe of Maine) are the major figures involved in blocking major health care reform, including a public option. As members of the Senate Finance Committee, they have made it clear that they do not wish to go as far on health care as the various committees in the House of Representatives.

The problem is these six senators together represent a population about the size of New York City (8.4 million people) and 2.75 percent of the total population of the nation. But they will have a major impact on health care reform and have a good chance to prevent major changes.

The three Democrats in particular represent states which only have ONE Congressman per state, and it seems to many that this whole situation is outrageous, and that the Senate is undemocratic in nature and should be changed.

But of course, there is no way that the Senate can be changed. The only major reform has been the 17th Amendment, which led to direct popular election of the Senate beginning in 1913. But the Founding Fathers did not set up the Senate to be a democratic body. Rather, it was set up as a barrier to “popular” rule and has long acted as a brake on the House of Representatives.

The Senate is a slow moving, slow adapting body, and often that is good, as it has prevented many unwise ideas passed by the House, including many crazy ideas for constitutional amendments.

In this case, the fight for health care reform, however, the Senate is becoming the bottleneck, and is giving too much power to a handful of Senators, who, were they in the House of Representatives, would have no attention given to them and would would wield no power at all.

Such is the makeup of our government, as established by the Founding Fathers, and there is nothing we can do about it!