Weekly Pulse: Joe Lieberman and the Opt-Out Revolution

Lindsay Beyerstein

Progressives rejoiced when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced this week that the final Senate health care bill would include a public option. But the jubilation was short-lived

This article is printed in partnership with The Media Consortium, of which Rewire is a member organization.  It first appeared here.

Progressives rejoiced when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
announced this week that the final Senate health care bill would
include a public option. The announcement was a major victory for
left-wing Democrats.

Better yet, it would be a public option without a trigger. Earlier
proposals called for a triggered public option which would only take
effect if private insurers failed to bring down costs on their own.
Under the opt-out compromise, the public option would come on line
automatically (albeit not until 2013), but states would later have the
option of quitting.

The jubilation was short-lived. Alex Koppelman of Salon explains:

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Progressives didn’t even get 24 hours to celebrate the
victory they won in getting Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to
include a version of the public option in his health care reform bill.
The celebration was cut off Tuesday afternoon with the news that Sen.
Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., will vote with Senate Republicans to filibuster
the legislation.

The Democrats have 60 Senate votes. If they all vote for cloture, a
procedural motion to stop debate, the Republicans can’t filibuster the
bill. The Senators who vote for cloture can still vote against the
bill. Reid’s strategy for passing the bill was to get all Democrats to
vote for cloture and let them vote their conscience on the actual bill.
Even without Lieberman, Democrats have the votes to pass the bill by
majority vote if they can avoid a filibuster.

Health care is the most important domestic policy initiative of the Obama administration. Would Joe Lieberman really torpedo reform? The Senate leadership thinks Reid is bluffing, according to Steve Benen at the Washington Monthly.

I understand the argument. Lieberman loves attention and
power. By threatening to join the Republican filibuster, he gets
both—Democrats have to scramble to make him happy, since there’s no
margin for error in putting together 60 votes. Lieberman gets to feel
very important for the next several weeks by making this threat less
than 24 hours after Harry Reid stated his intentions, but that doesn’t
necessarily mean he wants to be known forever as The Senator Who Killed
Health Care Reform.

I find it very easy to believe, however, that Lieberman is capable
of doing just that. He left himself some wiggle room, but not when it
comes to the public option—he’s against it, no matter what, even with
all of the compromises thrown in.

In other words, if this is all a ploy for leverage, why would
Lieberman open by swearing that he won’t support a bill with a public
option? You’d think he’d just say he was keeping his options open and
force Reid to make him a counter-offer. Reid has already decided that
the public option is politically non-negotiable. He’s afraid that the
base won’t come out for the 2012 elections if they don’t get what they
want. Benen speculates that Lieberman wants to be the Senator Who
Killed Health Care because he wants to drum up massive Republican
support for his 2012 reelection bid. On this theory, Lieberman is
joining Rep. Joe “You Lie!” Wilson (R-SC) and Balloon Dad in the quest
to make bank on ridiculous publicity stunts.

Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine)
says that she will side with the Republicans to filibuster the bill “if
she has to,” as Evan McMorris-Santoro reports for TPM. Snowe was the
only Republican to vote for the Finance Committee’s health care bill.

Reid must walk a fine line. The administration really can’t afford
to alienate organized labor before the 2012 elections. Newly elected
AFL-CIO President Ricahrd Trumka continues to push for his three core
demands for health care reform: a public option, a mechanism to make
employers pay their fair share, and no taxes on health care benefits.
Last week, AFSCME President Gerald McEntee said that his union would
oppose legislation that taxed benefits, but Trumka hasn’t gone that
far, as David Moberg reports at Working In These Times.

Finally, in other health-related news, Occupational Safety and
Health Administration (OSHA), the division of the Labor Department that
oversees workplace safety, has issued a sweeping new report condemning
Nevada’s state-level OSHA program. As I report for Working In These
Times, the investigators found that NOSHA inspectors were being pressured by their superiors to write up employers on lesser charges, even when their repeat offenses killed workers.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Sanders Vows to Continue the ‘Political Revolution’

Ally Boguhn

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) seemingly signaled he is not yet ready to concede the nomination to Hillary Clinton, and he promised to help push for reforms within the party while working to keep presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump from winning the White House.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) isn’t bowing out of the race for the Democratic nomination after the close of the presidential primaries, and Hillary Clinton took to the Huffington Post to talk about campus sexual assault and whether women should have to sign up for the draft.

“The Political Revolution Must Continue”: Sanders Vows in Thursday Night Address to Push for Party Reform

Sanders addressed supporters Thursday night after the 2016 presidential primary season ended earlier this week. He seemingly signaled he is not yet ready to concede the nomination to Hillary Clinton, and he promised to help push for reforms within the party while working to keep presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump from winning the White House.

“Election days come and go. But political and social revolutions that attempt to transform our society never end. They continue every day, every week, and every month in the fight to create a nation and world of social and economic justice,” Sanders said during the address, which was live-streamed online. “Real change never takes place from the top on down or in the living rooms of wealthy campaign contributors. It always occurs from the bottom on up, when tens of millions of people say loudly and clearly ‘enough is enough’ and they become engaged in the fight for justice. That’s what the political revolution we helped start is all about. That’s why the political revolution must continue.”

“The major political task that we face in the next five months is to make certain that Donald Trump is defeated and defeated badly,” Sanders continued, vowing to soon begin his role in ensuring the Republican doesn’t make it to the White House.

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“But defeating Donald Trump cannot be our only goal,” he added. “We must continue our grassroots efforts to create the America that we know we can become.”

Expressing his hope that he could continue to work with Clinton’s campaign, Sanders promised to ensure that supporters’ “voices are heard and that the Democratic Party passes the most progressive platform in its history and that Democrats actually fight for that agenda.”

That agenda included raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, ending the gender pay gap, defending reproductive rights, and protecting marriage equality in the United States, among other things.

Sanders’ speech came just after campaign manager Jeff Weaver said the campaign is “not currently lobbying superdelegates” and doesn’t “anticipate that will start anytime soon” during an interview on Bloomberg Politics’ With All Due Respect Thursday. The next day, Weaver told the hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe that Sanders is still “an active candidate for president.”

Clinton Weighs in on Stanford Sexual Assault Case, Women Joining the Draft

Hillary Clinton took a stand on two notable issues during an interview with the Huffington Post this week, telling the publication that she supported a measure in the Senate to require women to sign up for the draft and her thoughts about the Stanford sexual assault case.

“I do support that,” Clinton told the publication Wednesday when asked about the Senate’s approval of the National Defense Authorization Act, a military policy bill that would require women to sign up for the military draft once they turn 18, earlier in the week.

“I am on record as supporting the all-volunteer military, which I think at this time does serve our country well,” said Clinton. “And I am very committed to supporting and really lifting up the men and women in uniform and their families.”

As the New York Times reported, under the bill, “Failure to register could result in the loss of various forms of federal aid, including Pell grants, a penalty that men already face. Because the policy would not apply to women who turned 18 before 2018, it would not affect current aid arrangements.”

Though the U.S. Supreme Court previously ruled that women weren’t required to register for the draft as they were not allowed to serve in combat, the Times continued, “since Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said in December that the Pentagon would open all combat jobs to women, military officials have told Congress that women should also sign up for the draft.”

The draft registry has not been used by the United States since 1973, but requiring women to sign up for it has nevertheless been an issue on the campaign trail this election season. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) called requiring women to register for the draft “nuts” in February prior to dropping out of the race for the White House, while other then-Republican presidential candidates Sen. Marco Rubio (FL), New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and former governor of Florida Jeb Bush all signaled they would support it.

During her interview with Huffington Post, Clinton also voiced her support for the survivor at the center of the controversial Stanford sexual assault case, saying she was “was struck by” the “heartbreaking power” of the letter the survivor wrote detailing her experiences.

“It took great courage and I think she has done an important service for others,” Clinton said. “What I’ve heard about this case is deeply concerning. It is clear campus sexual assault continues to be a serious problem. And I’ve said before and I will continue to say it is not enough to condemn it. We must find ways to end it.”

The presumptive Democratic nominee had previously released a platform for addressing the national crisis of campus sexual assault, which promises to “provide comprehensive support to survivors;” “ensure fair process for all in campus disciplinary proceedings and the criminal justice system;” and “increase sexual violence prevention education programs that cover issues like consent and bystander intervention, not only in college, but also in secondary school.”

What Else We’re Reading

Trump’s “endgame” could be launching a “mini-media conglomerate,” Vanity Fair reports.

“He was always very open about describing women by their breast size,” a crew member for Trump’s reality show The Apprentice told Slate of the presumptive Republican nominee. “Any time I see people in the Trump organization say how nice he is, I want to throw up. He’s been a nasty person to women for a long time.”

In the wake of the mass shooting in Orlando at an LGBTQ club, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s deputy legal director of the LGBT Rights Project, David Dinielli, noted that “candidates on the campaign trail-and even the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party-elevate radical anti-LGBT leaders.”

Fact-checkers at the Washington Post took on both Clinton and Trump’s speeches on national security after the massacre in Orlando over the weekend.

“Regardless of your politics, it’s a seminal moment for women,” said Oprah, who offered her endorsement to Clinton on Wednesday, when speaking about the presumptive Democratic nominee. “What this says is, there is no ceiling, that ceiling just went boom! It says anything is possible when you can be leader of the free world.”

CNN’s Jim Sciutto, Tal Yellin, and Ryan Browne offer a look into the implications of Trump’s proposed plan to “suspend immigration from areas of the world when there is a proven history of terrorism against the United States, Europe or our allies.”

Univision penned an open letter on Tuesday expressing their concern over Trump’s decision to revoke press credentials for the Washington Post.

Republicans may have fewer women in the House next year after the election season wraps up.

Texas has already spent $3.5 million fighting multiple lawsuits over the state’s restrictive voter ID law, in what an attorney helping plaintiffs in one of the suits deemed a “shameful waste of taxpayer money.”

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) moved to make voting in the state easier for some this week, signing legislation that will allow residents with driver’s licenses and state IDs to register to vote online. What’s the catch? According to ThinkProgress, “the option will not be available until early next year, after the presidential election, despite the Republican Secretary of State’s insistence that the Ohio could implement the policy immediately.”

News Abortion

Texas Advocates Speak Out as Abortion Access Hangs in the Balance

Teddy Wilson

Reproductive rights advocates with the #FightBackTX Truth Tour have traveled around Texas this month to raise awareness about the negative effects anti-choice laws have had on abortion access.

Young women on the Texas A&M University campus in College Station Friday read personal narratives about having abortions as part of the #FightBackTX Truth Tour. The speakers gave life to the experiences of women who have had an abortion as part of an ongoing effort to end the stigma around the procedure.

The Feminists for Reproductive Equity and Education, a student organization, sponsored the event on Texas A&M University’s campus.

Reproductive rights advocates with the #FightBackTX Truth Tour have traveled around Texas this month to raise awareness about the negative effects anti-choice laws have had on abortion access, and the further repercussions for reproductive health care that could come to pass in the coming months.

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments March 2 in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt (formerly v. Cole), the case that will decide the constitutionality of the sweeping anti-choice restrictions passed by Texas Republicans in 2013.

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“It’s a challenge to the Texas law that has had such drastic impact on this state and could have even more detrimental impacts if the case doesn’t go our way,” Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, one of the sponsors of the tour, told Rewire.

Busby explained the importance of traveling around the state to raise awareness and ensure diverse voices from all women could be heard. “We really wanted to make sure that Texan voices were represented, and not just in Austin at a rally at the capitol, but across the state,” Busby said, referencing the battle waged at the tail end of the 2013 legislative session.

SB 5 was introduced during the first special legislative session called by then-Gov. Rick Perry (R) in 2013. Republican lawmakers tried to push through the bill at the end of the session, and it was filibustered in an act of political defiance that would have a lasting effect on the politics of abortion in the state and throughout the nation.

Then-state Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) spoke on the chamber floor for more than 11 hours, preventing a vote from being called before the midnight deadline on June 25, 2013. The filibuster was broadcast live, and people tuned in throughout the country to watch the stream online.

It was a galvanizing moment for Sidney Coker, a sophomore special education major at Texas A&M. She watched the filibuster and the protests from her home in Irving, Texas, the summer before her senior year in high school.

“It definitely made me realize that these are issues that I’m going to have to care about as a woman,” Coker told Rewire.

The political victory of Davis’ filibuster was short-lived. An identical bill, HB 2, was passed and signed into law during a second special legislative session. 

“What we have to realize is that moment was more of a catalyst,” Busby said. “What we’re seeing now and is that we’re really working hard to do is continue that work.”

After Davis’ filibuster, Busby saw people from all over the state who had come to Austin to protest at the capitol return to their communities and begin having conversations about abortion access.

“Sen. Davis’ filibuster and all of the people who came and testified at the capitol broke the silence around abortion access. Now people are talking about this issue, talking about their own abortion experiences and why they support access to abortion care,” Busby said.

The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) filed a lawsuit challenging two provisions of HB 2: the admitting privileges requirement as applied to two clinics—Whole Woman’s Health in McAllen and Reproductive Services in El Paso—as well as the requirement that every abortion clinic meet the same building requirements as mini-hospitals.

If the Supreme Court sides with Texas, there will be only nine or ten clinics, licensed as ambulatory surgical centers, that will provide abortion services in a state with more than 5.4 million women of reproductive age, according to CRR.

“We already seeing the impact of this,” Busby said. “There was a study that came out last year about how there are waiting periods of up to 20 days in some areas,” a statistic found by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP) at the University of Texas at Austin. “Anecdotally, that’s what I’m hearing as well: people calling our office saying that they can’t get an appointment and where can they go.”  

The TxPEP study concluded that the longer waiting periods would increase the number of second-trimester abortions. The study’s authors noted that this is concerning from a public health perspective because “later abortions, although very safe, are associated with a higher risk of complications compared to early abortions.”

“When you’re cutting off timely access to safe care, some folks are resorting to other options if they can’t get an appointment at a clinic or if they can’t get an appointment anywhere close to where they live,” Busby said.

The Planned Parenthood clinic in nearby Bryan closed in 2014 because it would not meet the requirements of HB 2, leaving Texas A&M students with few options for affordable reproductive health care. The Women’s Clinic on the Texas A&M campus is one of the few places where students can access reproductive health care.

Coker said that she goes to the Women’s Clinic to get hormonal birth control, but that is one of the only services they offer. “If you want anything else you have to go to an actual doctor off campus,” Coker said.

The lack of access, either due to distance or cost, has reportedly pushed some women as far as attempting to self-induce abortions. Between 100,000 and 240,000 Texas women of reproductive age have attempted to end a pregnancy on their own without medical assistance, according to a study by TxPEP.

“Texas has a long and proud tradition of standing up for reproductive rights,” Rachel Jacobson, the Texas state director for Shift, an organization working to “shift the stigma around abortion” that also sponsored the#FightBackTX Truth Tour, told the students in the plaza. “We know that no matter what happens at the Supreme Court we’re going to have challenges and we’re going to have opportunities ahead.”