Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Stick a fork in the Senate health care bill. It's done.
The Senate has moved to have a final vote on its health care bill for Thursday morning. Credit Mother Nature - God's bratty kid sister - for being instrumental in this development. An ice storm in the nation's midsection could prevent many Senate Republicans from getting home before Christmas. Not exactly something Tom Coburn would have prayed for.
Despite that, the huge flaws in the Senate bill still remain. There's no public insurance option, there's no provision to allow the sale of low-cost, imported drugs, and Americans will be forced to buy private insurance by federal mandate, with little choice among the private plans offered. President Obama had taken a hands-off approach in health care reform legislation, only nudging it along the way here and there, and the result is a watered-down Senate bill that is supposed to provide a foundation for universal health care but looks more like poles holding up a beach house. Here's where the rubber hits the road; once the bill goes to conference in January, Obama will have to get more seriously involved to get the cost controls and public option he spoke about in the 2008 presidential campaign and in the past year. But, given that he never pressured moderate members of the Senate Democratic caucus for any of these things - ask Joe Lieberman - how much can he possibly achieve with this same delegating approach to governing?
It's up to the House to preserve what the Senate finds so objectionable - but what the people want.
Meanwhile, there's some good news I can report, which is a happy ending. David Goldman, the New Jersey man who has been trying to get his nine-year-old son Sean back from the widower of Sean's mother, just won a major - and likely final - victory in his child custody battle. Gilmar Mendes, the chief justice of Brazil's Supreme Federal Court, ruled that Sean has to be returned to his dad. The chances of the Brazilian family getting this ruling overturned are between slim and none. I support this ruling just as I supported the return of Elián Gonzalez to Cuba nearly a decade ago, and for the same reason - with the mother deceased, the child needs his father. Elián Gonzalez was unfairly made a symbol in the ridiculous Cold War-era chess game between the United States and Cuba - the American right made it sound like he deserved to be with maternal relatives in Florida that he didn't know more than with his own father because of the benefits of American capitalism over living in Communist Cuba. "He doesn't need Disney World," Cynthia Tucker wrote of Elián Gonzalez at the time. "He needs his dad."
Sean Goldman doesn't need Rio, either . He needs his dad, too.

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