Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The #Cruzbuster

Okay ... That's Rubio ...
Sen. Ted Cruz took the floor of the Senate yesterday around 1 PM and vowed to talk as long as long as he could stand. He lasted about 56 minutes before tagging out with Sen. Mike Lee--but he's been back. We're now into like 16hrs (as I type, Rubio is 'asking an extremely long question' to give Cruz a break).

What Is Going On?
What's going on is this: the House, at Cruz's prompting, passed a Continuing Resolution that defunds Obamacare. When it gets to the Senate, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will call for a 'cloture vote' which will allow the Senate to amend it by stripping out the defund-part and bounce it back.

Cruz wants to head this off and just call for a 50% majority up-or-down vote on the bill hoping that, maybe, six Democrats will defect and vote against it. Reid has said that ain't gonna happen: to stop the cloture vote, which gets the bill "under discussion" someone would need to filibuster.

Unfortunately the Republicans don't have the votes to support a filibuster--especially on a bill the Republican House passed (even though it's a procedural issue, you usually only filibuster the other guy's bills). So instead Ted has vowed to talk.

So talk he is. As this isn't an actual filibuster--which seizes the floor and runs out the clock on the bill in question--he's allowed to swap out--and he has. He can also have people help him with incredibly long "questions" (that's why the picture up there is Rubio).

On the other hand, he is making a fairly impressive run. I mean, nothing against him personally. Even kinda filibustering is a feat. Let's also be fair: Wendy Davis' filibuster delayed the vote she was protesting but didn't kill it either.

So What?
The question here is about the end-game: everyone has to get something or there's no deal. In the past that something was placating a base that felt disrespected or disenfranchised. Today, though, the base has (a) lost yet again (the Supreme Court, the 2012 election, and 41 useless votes) and (b) has been told they can win this.

Is there something the base's caucus can walk away with and feel like they got something? I don't see anything. I do see some maneuvering that suggests that the Debt Ceiling might be the place to fight this battle--that's actually not bad thinking: if a Government shutdown is a shot to the foot, a Debt Ceiling default is a round to the nuts.

Unfortunately, one of the arguments for a Debt Ceiling battle is that the American people might feel national parks closing and stuff--but they won't connect the world-wide financial crisis the Debt Ceiling default would kick off to the Republicans! I doubt this is true in practice (the consequences would be bad enough to get to middle America)--but thinking it's true? That's dangerous.

What Do I Think?
Cruz read letters from people who've had their health care costs go up--or had the company cut hours--due to Obamacare. He hasn't read letters from anyone with a pre-existing condition that's still covered--or from someone who had their insurance drop them during treatment because they got too expensive.

Leaving these people out feels disingenuous. Obamacare may be a job killer. It may ruin private insurance. I can't tell you that because it's a question of numbers and policy I'm not qualified to answer.

But I can tell you when something feels fishy.

Yesterday, in my home town, my wife passed a protest against Obamacare Navigators. These are people who'd be hired to help people navigate the new exchanges--to help explain the system to them. That the system is so complicated that it needs navigators is not a good sign--but to protest against helping people who want and maybe need insurance understand their options seems ridiculously mean spirited. It doesn't feel authentic.

Maybe you've seen this ad:

In this ad--one of two by Generation Opportunity, a conservative messaging group notably funded (5M) by the Koch brothers--illustrates how Obamacare is bad because when a young woman goes for a gynecological exam she is assaulted somehow (it's not clear) by a freaky Uncle Sam who looks similar to the freaky Burger King Mask icon.

The issue behind this is that (a) the questionnaire for the health care can ask if you are sexually active and then (b) the IRS can look into those records. This is never made clear in the ad--it's just in some published interviews by the people who made it. The iconography is that The Government will BE THERE in the exam room with you ... with a speculum.

This feels like bullshit because it is. Whatever 'real' objection the group has is an excuse for an alarming / funny (?) viral video. This isn't an attempt to educate anyone on the real issues behind Obamacare--it's an attempt to viscerally scare people or disgust them (really? It's an attempt for Gen Opportunity to prove they can make viral conservative media which will get them more donors--it isn't expected to move the dial: the target market can all stay on their parent's insurance until they're 26 ... Thanks Obamacare.)

The fact that this is even out there tells me that the issues here are way more important than the branding.

So I'm dubious: I'm sure the pro-Obamacare material will oversell it. I'm guessing that the government is putting the best possible spin on whatever numbers they've got. Absolutely--but I've not seen anything like the exam ad--or the Cruz selective filibuster from that sector (just some infographics).

I do understand that the system needs young healthy people to buy in--absolutely--but it's no mystery why the system needs that and I don't see anyone claiming that young healthy people who don't buy in will suddenly get nasty diseases and die horribly having spent their last $500 on the I-didn't-buy-Obamacare fine.

That would be the equivalent of the above ad.

Hey, George Soros: Give me five million bucks and I'll make a viral video for O-Care. It'll be great!

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