Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Article Comments

Filibustering And The Senate’s Dysfunction

The Senate, which was supposed to pass an omnibus bill including an extension of uninsurance benefits, an extension of COBRA benefits, and (not incidentally) yet another temporary patch on the 21% cuts in Medicare physician reimbursement, failed to do so on Friday before it adjourned early for the weekend. At least that’s the top-line headline, and most people never read further than that when it comes to wonky policy/process articles like this.

The real reason that the bill is stalled (and that the cuts which are deadlined at 2/28 will go into effect) is, as they say, the Gentlman from Kentucky, Senator Jim Bunning.

Bunning, it seems, had mounted a quixotic mini-filibuster of the extension. He wants some (I’m not sure which) of the various extensions to be funded out out of the stimulus monies, which would mean that projects for which that money had been budgeted will have to be canceled. According to reports, he rejected to having this put up for a vote, knowing that he didn’t have the votes to support it, and chose instead to just obstruct out of pique. It’s important to note that Bunning does not have, it seems, the support of Republican leadership in this, and he knows full well that Reid will just push this through to a vote which will pass the extension as it was written. So it’s a futile, meaningless gesture, assuming that the entire GOP caucus doesn’t rally behind him, which seems unlikely. The Democrats forced Bunning to stage a mini-filibuster, which angered him to the point that he cursed at fellow senators on the floor and whined that this was making him miss a basketball game.

“Let them eat cake”?

In the end, this is not going to prevent the extension of the Medicare patch — or uninsurance benefits and COBRA benefits, something of great importance to those suffering in this recession. The rules allow Reid to file for a vote after a certain time frame, and the only reason this is news at all is because it was a last-minute vote and apparently Bunning blindsided Reid with his procedural hijinks.

But it’s a great example of the many ways that the Senate is deeply dysfunctional and subject to being held hostage by a determined minority — even when it is a minority of one. Will this add fuel to the drive for reform of the filibuster? Possibly. But it’s a great example of why reform wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.

*This blog post was originally published at Movin' Meat*

You may also like these posts

    None Found

Read comments »

Comments are closed.

Return to article »

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

Read more »

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

Read more »

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

See all book reviews »