This morning, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) honored Ted Kennedy’s legacy by disingenuously arguing that Kennedy’s absence from the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP) mark-up hearings allowed Democrats to reject Republican amendments “of any significance”:
You’d have to change the way things have been done and that is the fact that there have been no real negotiations. There has been a bill before committee, on which I sit, the HELP committee and it was done by Democrats and no amendments were agreed to of any significance and so that’s not the kind of negotiations I did with Senator Kennedy.
While McCain and the other Republicans on the HELP committee tried to delay the mark-up process by offering numerous nuance amendments and complaining that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) had not yet scored the entire proposal, the committee accepted 160 Republican amendments and spent 13 days and more than 60 hours debating the legislation. McCain objected to mark-up from the very beginning, arguing that the committee should “scrap the current bill and start over and start over in a true bipartisan fashion.”
As Slate’s Christopher Beam pointed out, “many of the GOP amendments on this incomplete list do seem pretty substantive.” (The committee even accepted several of McCain’s more substantive amendments):
- McCain 205: To establish certain policies for small group health plans
- McCain 2: Determines whether existing Federal Government sponsored health and wellness initiatives are effective in achieving their stated goals.
- Enzi 25: To impose an earning requirement with respect to enrollees.
- Hatch: Adds programs based on pain care, environment, antimicrobial resistance, oral health, wellness programs for at risk populations.
Since Kennedy’s death, a long line of Republicans have argued that “Kennedy’s absence from the health care debate prevented lawmakers from reaching a bipartisan compromise and that had Kennedy been present, agreement on health care reform would have been more likely.” But as Ezra Klein argues, “this stuff just isn’t plausible. Kennedy was around in 1994 and there was no deal. More to the point, Kennedy’s committee, the HELP Committee, has passed health-care reform. Kennedy’s staff, as you might expect, led their effort. But neither Kennedy nor his staff can make the deals for another committee. If Kennedy were in the Senate now, health care would be exactly where it is: Through Ted Kennedy’s Committee and stuck in the morass of Max Baucus’s Gang of Six. ”
Indeed, the GOP has refused to negotiate in good faith, consistantly misrepresenting the consequences of reform and fearmongering about the public health insurance option. Some Republicans are also manipulating the events of the August recess to argue that that Americans are more concerned about jobs than health care reform and are urging Congress to abandon the present effort and adopt “incremental” changes.