Surprise. The Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce does not want debate to open on health care legislation in the Senate. It wants it killed dead, now. It is rallying troops to pressure Sens. Pryor and Lincoln to filibuster what is traditionally a routine procedure to open debate.
Pryor has already indicated he'd allow debate. Lincoln has been holding out, but Sen. Ben Nelson provides the template for an aye vote to open debate:
This weekend, I will vote for the motion to proceed to bring that debate onto the Senate floor," Nelson says. "The Senate should start trying to fix a health care system that costs too much and delivers too little for Nebraskans."
"In my first reading," Nelson said, "I support parts of the bill and oppose others I will work to fix. If that's not possible, I will oppose the second cloture motion--needing 60 votes--to end debate, and oppose the final bill."
On the jump is the chamber's e-mail to its people (you can use the same instructions to send a different message to the senators):
Dear Friends and Family,
Rarely, if ever, have I bothered my friends and family with "work" information. However, due to the serious nature of what is going on in Washington, I am compelled to write today and encourage you to contact Arkansas's U.S. Senators (Lincoln and Pryor) and urge them to vote against a "cloture" vote on health care reform tomorrow night.
I am forwarding a special newsletter that I just prepared and will send to the 1200+ member businesses of the Arkansas State Chamber/AIA and will hopefully be forwarded by the local chambers across the state to their members potentially reaching over 30,000 people.
Please review this information and if you agree, contact Senators Lincoln and Pryor today.
Friday, November 20, 2009
U.S. SENATE TO CONSIDER HEALTH CARE REFORM SATURDAY NIGHT
***URGE SENATORS LINCOLN & PRYOR TO VOTE AGAINST CLOTURE***
Tomorrow night the United States Senate will take a vote on one of the most significant pieces of legislation in decades. The vote is a procedural vote called “cloture”, which would move the U.S. Senate closer to a final vote on health care legislation.
Immediately below is the entire text of a letter that the State Chamber/AIA faxed to Senators Lincoln and Pryor this morning. As you can see, we are asking the Senators to vote AGAINST cloture tomorrow night and we ask you to help by making similar pleas to both Senators.
You may send your comments by fax or email. Your comments can be as simple as a handwritten statement like, “please vote AGAINST cloture on health care reform” or as complex as you wish to write. Here is the contact information for each Senator:
Senator Blanche Lincoln
Web site (for email contact) http://lincoln.senate.gov
Senator Mark Pryor
Web site (for email contact) http://pryor.senate.gov
Following the letter below is a report from the National Association of Manufacturers that discusses the process and analyzes the potential votes on this major legislative issue. As you can see, our Senator’s votes are pivotal, which means your input will have an impact on the outcome of this vote.
STATE CHAMBER/AIA LETTER TO SENATORS LINCOLN AND PRYOR
Dear Senators Lincoln and Pryor:
On behalf of our nearly 1,200 member businesses across the state we are writing again today to urge you to vote against cloture and the current bills regarding health care reform—the Senate Finance Committee bill, the Senate HELP Committee bill and the recently passed H.R. 3962.
We agree that America needs some reform of its health care system, but all of the current Congressional proposals are, in our opinion, too much, too soon, too costly and all are loaded with potentially adverse unintended consequences. We believe better reform can be accomplished by taking incremental, manageable steps as opposed to wholesale, difficult to measure changes.
Reducing the cost of health care must be a priority and this can be done without the major sea changes in the current proposals. Many companies, such as Safeway, Whole Foods, Theda Care and others, are currently getting good results. Their costs are not out of control. On the contrary, they are achieving reductions in costs and increased satisfaction levels with their employees. There are many innovative programs like theirs that Congress should nurture and encourage.
All of the current Congressional proposals are simply too costly to employers—especially small businesses—to state governments, and to taxpayers. Our businesses are hurting and cannot afford more sudden and dramatic cost increases. The bills’ cost increases and political payoffs to unions and other special interests will kill more jobs at a time when our country must create jobs.
One of the ways meaningful health care reform can be accomplished in a much less costly manner is through incremental changes in the insurance system. Some of the areas where changes could help include; pre-existing condition clauses, guaranteed issue, and 90-180 day eligibility periods in automatic enrollment clauses. We believe more people currently without insurance would obtain insurance if there were subsidies for those who cannot afford it and an individual obligation to be covered. There could also be great savings if tort reform measures were passed that would allow physicians to stop practicing defensive medicine.
Health savings accounts coupled with high deductible insurance coverage are just now beginning to produce their promised consumer behavior changes; better individual decisions based on cost awareness and market-based information. This progress will be forfeited under any of the three bills proposed.
Finally, we are steadfast in our belief in the American system of free enterprise. The creation of a vibrant marketplace with interstate purchasing options and the formation of association and group purchasing plans will stimulate competition, lower costs and allow more Americans to have health insurance.
Senator, your vote is critical in stopping a politically biased rush to judgment on one sixth of our country’s economy. It would be disastrous to pass a bill to address 15% of the population at the expense of the other 85%. Please find a way to help those who need coverage without limiting access and raising costs on those who have health coverage by voting against cloture on all of the currently pending health care bills and against any of the current bills that might come up for a floor vote.
Randy Wilbourn, Chairman Ray Dillon, Chairman
Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce Associated Industries of Arkansas
Randy Zook Kenneth R. Hall
President & CEO Executive Vice President
FROM THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF MANUFACTUERS
Saturday Night Senate Test Vote Could Ride On Three Moderate Democrats.
The AP (11/20) reports the Senate "will hold its first vote on health care legislation on Saturday night and Democrats will need 60 votes to prevail." Majority Leader Harry Reid "announced the schedule on the Senate floor, one day after unveiling a nearly $1 trillion bill to expand health coverage."
The CBS Evening News (11/19, lead story, 2:30, Couric) opened with the healthcare story, reporting, "It's down now to two healthcare reform bills, the one the House passed two weeks ago and the one" Reid has finalized. Reid "hasn't locked up the 60 votes he needs to get it through. His bill would extend coverage to 94 percent of Americans, the House bill, 96 percent." ABC World News (11/19, story 3, 2:35, Gibson) said the Senate bill is "one of the most expensive bills ever taken up by Congress. The legislation runs more than 2,000 pages. It would take an estimated 48 hours to read it."
The New York Times (11/20, A24, Pear) says the Saturday vote will be "on whether to take up the legislation." Reid "refused to say Thursday whether he had the 60 votes needed to clear that procedural hurdle." The Senate bill "would spend $821 billion over 10 years on Medicaid and subsidies. The House bill would spend 25 percent more: $1.03 trillion over 10 years."
The Washington Post (11/20, A1, Montgomery, Murray) says in a front page story Reid "worked Thursday to nail down the votes" needed. Reid is focusing on Sens. Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln, and Ben Nelson, "moderate Democrats who oppose various provisions in the bill and have not declared whether they will support efforts to advance it." Sen. Joseph Lieberman said he "will vote with Democrats on Saturday to begin debate. But Lieberman has said he would vote against final passage if the bill includes any version of a government insurance plan." Politico (11/20, Raju) says Lieberman's "threat to filibuster any health care bill with a public option could kill health reform this year -- and embolden Democratic challengers who'd like to send him packing in 2012."
The Washington Times (11/20, Haberkorn) states that "Democratic leaders don't yet have the 60 votes required to start formal floor debate on the health care reform bill." The Times says the three moderates want a chance to review the bill in advance. If they "don't budge, Democratic leaders are also pursuing moderate Republicans, though at least one said the conversations haven't been backed up with any changes to the legislation." Sen. Olympia Snowe said she "won't support the bill because it doesn't do enough to make insurance affordable and protect small businesses."
In contrast to the Times, the AP (11/20, Espo) says "there were growing indications Democrats would prevail" on the initial vote, saying none of the three moderates "has announced a plan to defect."
NAM Opposes Senate Healthcare Bill As Too Burdensome For Manufacturers. In a press release (11/20), the NAM President John Engler responded to the release of Senate Majority Leader Reid's (D-NV) Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Engler said, "Manufacturers entered into the health care debate supportive of the need for health care reform that lowers costs, but that is not the direction Congress is going." The Senate bill "released by Majority Leader Reid and the bill passed by the House of Representatives add massive additional financial burdens to businesses that are already struggling in this recession." The NAM also "opposes an excise tax on health insurance plans as it will add costs to manufacturers and employees." Reform "should focus on reducing costs, improving access and preserving what is working in the current system. When our economy is still struggling deeply and unemployment is at a record high, it is not the right time to put more burdens on America's job creators."
EMPLOYERS FOR QUALITY HEALTH CARE
To assist our members understand and communicate on this issue, the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce and the Associated Industries of Arkansas joined a nationwide coalition of State Chambers and similar business organizations named, “Employers for Quality Health Care.” This coalition has established a web site that provides information on the health care reform debate in Washington and a method of communicating with members of Congress if you chose to not do so direct. The coalition web site is:http://www.employersforqualityhealthcare.org/home/