In what has been described as a last-ditch effort to save the healthcare overhaul that is first on his Christmas wish list, President Barack Obama has summoned all 60 members of the Senate’s Democratic caucus to the White House on Tuesday for an 11th-hour pep talk in anticipation of an impending vote on the Senate’s version of a bill that would alter the healthcare industry by changing Medicare, offering long-term care to retirees and the disabled, and creating a government-subsidized and administered panoply of health insurance policies.
As the first snow of the season fell on Washington, D.C., there was a flurry of activity inside the Capitol Building, as well. As Republicans made motion after motion, trying to send the entire legislation back to committee where it would essentially languish, Democrats propped up the measure with mostly symbolic gestures designed to demonstrate fiscal responsibility and compassionate care for the elderly and the working poor.
On November 7, at the end of a 12-hour debate, the House of Representatives passed the implausibly named “Affordable Healthcare for America Act.” A similarly revolutionary measure was introduced days later in the Senate and, thanks to a shameless display of haranguing and multi-million-dollar handouts, was put onto the calendar for deliberation by the entire membership.
Ending a week of rancorous debate, hollow threats, and showdowns that seemed all but blocked and scripted, the Senate voted Thursday on the first four of nearly a score of amendments to the healthcare bill. Partisan shadow boxing over topics as polarizing as abortion and Medicare culminated in a series of roll calls that had few surprises, and more than anything testified to the antipodean antipathy permeating both houses of Congress.