Day: December 21, 2009

Congratulations To Senator Bernie Sanders For National System Of Community Health Centers!

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont is to be congratulated for gaining a provision in the Senate Health Care bill providing for $10 billion to be spent on a national system of Community Health Centers!

The Republican opposition and conservative talk show hosts are condemning this and other special provisions set up in the bill, which helped to gain support of Democratic senators to cut off the filibuster.

But one must understand that every member of Congress is expected to support and promote programs and benefits that will be positive for their states and districts, what are called “earmarks” by critics.

You would think that Republicans have never asked for “earmarks” with their holier than thou attitude. This thought, that they are Puritans, is totally ridiculous.

In my mind, what matters is whether the “earmark” is a positive development, rather than just a waste of money, such as the “bridge to nowhere” promoted by former Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska.

Certainly, what Sanders has gained for the country and its poorer citizens is not just a benefit to Vermonters, but to millions of people who cannot afford a doctor. Since it is unlikely there will be a choice of a public option, or expansion of Medicare, or a single payer system in the final bill, all of which Sanders really favored over what he gained, this is a “consolation prize” that will benefit many needy people.

About Time: Airline Passengers Bill Of Rights Announced!

A great Christmas gift from the Obama Administration is the announcement by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood that no longer will airlines be allowed to keep passengers on planes on tarmacs longer than three hours without providing relief.

It has been an outrage that passengers have been kept locked in planes on tarmacs for up to 12 hours without any provision for food, water and clean bathroom facilities.

This is a long overdue move that will have unanimous support from everyone, as airlines have been abusing their passengers. Now they will be forced to accomodate passengers or face fines.

Specifically, they must provide food and water after two hours and allow passengers off the plane after three hours, or face fines per passenger of $27,500!

On the average, 1,500 flights per year in domestic travel have had this problem, and about 114,000 passengers have been inconvenienced. The new rules take effect in four months, and hopefully there will be few abuses on this issue until it goes into effect.

Pathbreaking Moment: Senate Overcomes GOP Filibuster On Health Care Reform!

After a long, drawn out, highly partisan debate that has gone on for months, the Senate this morning passed a necessary step toward cloture to overcome a filibuster, and move toward later this week agreeing to a landmark health care reform bill.

Of course, even after a final vote expected to be held on Christmas Eve, the hardest job of all will be early next year to promote a conference committee report of both houses of Congress, reconciling different aspects of the bill that will be very difficult to gain compromise on, including the issue of abortion, the public option in the House bill, and funding and taxing health care in a way that will not add to the burgeoning national debt.

In many ways, the concept of victory seems elusive, as one has to wonder how the two houses will come up with a common bill. It will require statesmanship and moderation to accomplish what has been an elusive goal for nearly a century: health care reform, which even if this resolves itself, is still only a beginning step toward total reform at some point down the road in future time.

While this issue has become highly partisan, it seems to me that even this imperfect bill passed in both houses of Congress will ultimately be a plus for the Democrats, as much as Social Security and Medicare were in previous generations. The unwillingness of Republicans to work on a common goal for health care will not make them look good in the future and in historical perspective!