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Live Blog: Senate Debate on Health Care Bill

The Senate is debating the health care bill this weekend–specifically they are considering the numerous amendments that have been proposed by Senators. Al Franken is acting as President right now. You can watch the debate on C-Span 2 or you can get the live stream here.

Bloomberg: President Obama plans to head to the Senate today to “rally the troops.”

At TNR, Jacob Hacker, a political science professor at Yale, has an opinion piece:You Call This a Compromise?

As the Senate debates the health care bill put together by Majority Leader Reid, the scramble is on to come up with a new compromise regarding the public option–the public health insurance plan modeled after Medicare that will be offered within the new health insurance exchange to Americans who lack workplace health insurance (and to workers in small firms that decide to buy coverage through the exchange).

The problem is that the current proposals aren’t “compromises” and don’t represent “middle ground.”

They represent abandonment of the public plan idea altogether. One proposal that is being floated, for example, is the chartering of a national nonprofit plan, similar to the “cooperatives” that Senator Kent Conrad has advocated. But the whole point of the public plan is to create a plan that is up and running quickly and constructed on the existing infrastructure of Medicare so that it can create competitive pressure for insurers and serve as a backup for consumers on day one. In 35 states, after all, the largest private insurer enrolls more than half of privately insured patients. Many of these plans are nonprofits already–the problem is that they don’t face a credible alternative.

Another, even stranger idea is to offer the nonprofit plans available in the Federal Employees Health Benefit Plan (FEHBP) within the exchange. Since the FEHBP is itself a form of exchange, this amounts to offer a new set of private plans within a new set of private plans. How is that going to provide real pressure on private insurers in a consolidated insurance market in which nonprofit plans already have a large presence (and often act little differently from for-profit plans)?

In short, the new compromise proposals are anything but. They represent calls for advocates of the public plan to eat their crumbs and be happy.

If you have been following the debate so far, please share your reactions. And join us in discussing what’s happening this afternoon.

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley is First Candidate for Ted Kennedy’s Senate Seat

MA Atty. Gen. Martha Coakley

MA Atty. Gen. Martha Coakley

The Boston Globe reports that currrent Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley has begun her campaign to fill recently deceased Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s seat in the Senate. Although she hasn’t officially announced her candidacy, Coakley stopped by the Secretary of State’s office this morning to get the required nomination papers.

Coakley’s nascent campaign picked up the documents from the secretary of state’s elections division. She now needs to gather 10,000 certified voter signatures to qualify for the Dec. 8 Democratic primary. Those signatures must be submitted to city and town election officials for certification by Oct. 20.

Coakley has been quietly been putting together her Senate campaign over the past year….She has told associates she will run for the seat even if a Kennedy family member enters the race. Joseph P. Kennedy II is said to be eyeing the race; people close to the family have said the late senator’s wife, Vicki, is not interested in the seat. Three members of Congress — Edward J. Markey, Stephen F. Lynch, and Michael Capuano — are also considering running.

Ed O’Reilly, who ran against Senator John Kerry in the 2008 primary, may also run. It sounds like a crowded field. It should be exciting. Personally, I’d like to see a woman represent Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate, and I’m convinced Coakley would do an excellent job.

The New York Times’ The Caucus blog says that the Massachusetts state legislature will consider whether Governor Deval Patrick should be permitted to appoint someone to fill the seat until the special election on Jan. 19.

I really don’t see why that is necessary. Patrick may just want to give his own pick a leg up–although with Patrick’s approval rating at only 19% in the most recent poll, his imprimatur may spell the kiss of death for the candidate of his choice.

On Martha Coakley, The Caucus reports that

Ms. Coakley, who was overwhelmingly elected attorney general in 2006, has long been considered a possible contender for an open Senate seat.

The Associated Press reported earlier this year that in both 2004 and 2008, Ms. Coakley opened a bank account that financed polling to explore her chances for a Senate seat. She told the Boston Globe in April that the account is inactive but open….

Jeffrey Berry, a political science professor at Tufts University, said the ambitions of Ms. Coakley, who has risen rapidly from prosecutor to county district attorney to attorney general, are well-known.

“She’s moved up the ladder quite quickly,” Professor Berry said. “She’s had her eye on a Senate seat and has been waiting for the call, and it finally came.”

So far no one has called Martha Coakley the “B” word, but I suppose that will inevitably happen, as it does to most powerful women. She also supported Hillary Clinton in the primary, and that may be held against her by Obama fans.