Senate Finance Committee chair
–the insurance-industry-friendly Democrat who grabbed the lead in the collaboration between Congress and the Obama administration on healthcare reform–has come up with a novel way to express his commitment to provide care for the nearly 50 million Americans who have no health insurance and the roughly equal number who have inadequate coverage. Baucus is having doctors and nurses arrested. Medical practitioners who have shown up at Baucus-chaired “roundtable discussions” to propose a cure–a single-payer plan designed to ensure that all Americans have access to healthcare while at the same time holding down costs–are being taken into custody and removed from the hearing rooms.
At the first Finance Committee session on May 5, Dr.
and seven others were arrested when they urged Baucus to include witnesses who support single-payer. A week later, at the opening of the committee’s second hearing, five more members of
Physicians for a National Health Care Program
California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee
were taken into custody when they objected to the narrow character of the deliberations. Single-payer advocates went the civil disobedience route only after their repeated requests for a place at the table had been rejected by Baucus. “They just don’t want to hear from single-payer,” explains Dr. Flowers, a pediatrician from Maryland. “We’ve been trying for months now, meeting with members of Congress, to be included in the hearings and the events that they are holding, and they keep excluding us.”
Baucus’s approach is an unhealthy one–for the reform debate and for democracy. JOHN NICHOLS
In April The Nation‘s
broke the story of a multibillion-dollar alternative-fuel tax loophole that was subsidizing paper companies to add fossil fuel to a process that didn’t need it. (The credit was designed to incentivize the reduction of fossil fuel use through the addition of biofuels.) Now it appears the jig is up.
At the time the story was published, the loophole had received scant attention in the press, though the paper industry was abuzz with speculation about just how long it would be before someone noticed. In response to Hayes’s reporting, criticism of the loophole gained momentum. Environmental groups were quick to spring into action and begin advocating that Congress close the loophole. That prompted coverage from the New York Times and the Washington Post.
On April 23 Democratic Senator
of Montana called the loophole an “unintended adverse consequence. It’s very expensive, and it should be closed.” Senators from paper-producing states (
from Maine and
from Arkansas) defended the credit, pointing to the hard times the industry is facing. The machinists’ union, which represents members in paper plants, also rose up in support of the credit.