Oh, poor, poor Michael Bennet (D-CO). He just doesn't seem to understand how the legislative process works. He took to the Senate floor to praise what the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act”--which was signed yesterday by President Obama--will do. That bill is now law. Today they are working on a completely different bill, a budget reconciliation bill, which mostly contains some tax changes that will not go into effect for years.
Bennet falsely equates what the already-passed health insurance law will do with what this reconciliation bill will accomplish. He claims that trying to make improvements to this minor "sidecar" would be to “play games with the lives of thousands of Coloradans and millions of Americans, and I won't do it.”
That is absurd. The bill that expands insurance coverage was already signed into law. This reconciliation bill, with its minor changes for the employer mandate, and changes to the excise tax, is not playing games with the lives of millions of Americans. Whether this new bill passes or not it will have little impact on our health care system.
Bennet also claims that merely offering some popular amendments to improve the reconciliation bill would kill it. This is completely nonsense. Changing the bill will only send it back to the House for another vote, where it would likely pass. Because of Byrd rule points of order, the bill will almost certainly need to go back to the House for another vote, anyway. Of course, if there are not enough votes for the amended reconciliation bill in the House, they can always amended the bill again to their liking and send it back to the Senate for a final vote. This is how the legislative process works.
In a moment of pure comedy, Bennet states that he “will continue to fight for the [public option] until we get a vote.” Clearly Bennet doesn't have the vaguest understanding of what the word “fight” means--because he doesn't even need to fight to get a vote on the public option. All he needs to do is exercise his right as a senator, and politely ask for a vote on the public option by offering an amendment.
It is completely within his power to get a vote on the public option at this very moment because of the rules of reconciliation. All he needs to do is offer an amendment, and it will get an up-or-down vote in the Senate. In fact, a reconciliation that deals with health care is basically the only time Bennet can be assured to get an up-or-down vote on the public option.
I guess taking one very simple step to ensure that you get a vote on the public option, at the time when you most easily can, is just too hard a fight for Michael Bennet.