Weekly Pulse: Days of Swine and Poses

Lindsay E. Beyerstein

Tuesday, Senate Republicans prioritized human life over anti-abortion grandstanding and confirmed Gov. Kathleen Sebelius as Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Tuesday, Senate Republicans prioritized human life over
anti-abortion grandstanding and confirmed Gov. Kathleen Sebelius as
Secretary of Health and Human Services. When the world totters on the
brink of a pandemic, slow-walking the future health secretary begins to
look unseemly.

As Dana Goldstein reports in TAPPED:

Sebelius’ confirmation has been delayed
as her home state Republican legislature has forced her to deal with a
series of abortion-related bills. Her latest pro-choice veto inspired a
Republican backer of her nomination, Sen. Sam Brownback, to hint that
he may change his mind and vote "no" on her appointment.

Of course, it was all an act, though some conservative activists
suspect that swine flu was just a ruse to guilt-trip Republicans into
confirming Sebelius. Seriously.

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Wendy Wright, of the conservative group Concerned Women for America, told the Washington Independent
that "If there’s even a hint that [Department of Homeland Security] is
manipulating the health situation to push a political appointee
through, well, it almost defies imagination that they’d be willing to

Some costs of the Republican war on science became evident this week
as the U.S. declared an state of emergency over swine flu. John Nichols
of the Nation recalls that the Republicans cut $420 million for pandemic preparedness from the stimulus bill on the grounds that public health spending had nothing to do with economic recovery:

Senate Republicans led by Maine Senator
Susan Collins attacked the public-health spending and successfully
eliminated it from the Senate version of the stimulus. Collins
complained at the time to CNN that: "There’s funding to help improve
our preparedness for a pandemic flu. There is funding to help improve
cyber security. What does that have to do with an economic stimulus

Collins read the stimulus legislation,
and the threat, wrong. So, too, did Senate Democratic leaders, who
compromised with her wrongheaded demands in order to secure support for
a watered-down stimulus plan.

If you’ve been watching the stock market lately, or talked to a
travel agent, you know exactly what pandemic preparedness has to do
with the economy. Airline and manufacturing stocks were especially hard-hit by flu fears this week, not to mention pork bellies.

Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania announced yesterday that he was
becoming a Democrat. As Jonathan Stein and Nick Bauman explain in Mother Jones, the far-right caused Specter’s defection.
The longtime Pennsylvania senator broke with the Republicans not on
principle, but because preliminary polling data showed that he couldn’t
win a primary challenge by far-right Republican, Pat Toomey.

In theory, the Democrats now have a filibuster-proof 60-seat
majority, but not until the winner of the Minnesota senate race, Al
Franken, is seated. As Brian Beutler notes at TPMDC, there are enough divisions
in the Democratic caucus to reduce a super-majority to mere majority on
many important votes. Specter has a reputation as a moderate Republican
and few expect the party switch to radically affect his votes. However,
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid now has leverage over Specter,
because Reid now controls Specter’s committee assignments.

Finally, in TAPPED, Ezra Klein argues that the Democrats
are wise to continue asserting their right to pass healthcare through
budget reconciliation-and therefore with a simple majority-if no
healthcare bill is passed before the October 15.
Let’s call it the Don’t Drop Dead Date. Hopefully, the prospect of
reconciliation will spur Republicans to cooperate on healthcare reform,
because the alternative is being left out all together.

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