WASHINGTON, DC — The Race to #60 is as old as the Senate. Only one person can claim the title in this rare event, as the party in power tries to work it so the race doesn’t happen. It becomes a public race when the legislative issue is so overpoweringly dull and no Senator purports to understand its values, let alone what it actually says.
These two legislative “faults” are attached to the bill’s writers and they are excused by the body from writing any bills for the rest of the session, thus they can stay home and attend to their real jobs in their districts, making money.
This Senate “give and take” game, sometimes called “compromise”, to disguise its gaminess from the public, brings to the public eye what this deliberative body actually does while in session – governing as sport. Wagering is involved and the stakes can be quite high, which can be seen when 5 or 6 Senators “throw their hat” into the “Race” as it is subtly called – thus using the “Race Card” as it is called euphemistically.
Most visible in the 2009 Health Care Race to #60 were several Senators who relish the high-stakes atmosphere it brings. The winner, Ben Nelson who is a 5-time previous winner (amassing the total wagered $5.4 million in this contest alone); second place Joe Leiberman, who camethisclose to his first-ever 1st, bitterly added his 14th 2nd place finish, a record ($0); Bernie Sanders gained 3rd ($0), due to that botched last-minute amendment withdrawal, which would have caused the Senate to read its entirety word for word, an embarrassing 36-hour delay tactic brought to the floor by the GOP flag-carrier responsible for GOP-Delay, since the original Delay is no longer in office, John “TanMan” Boehner.
In a partisan dig at TanMan, Senate Democrats wrote in a 10 percent sales tax on tanning salons, to be paid by any Republican caught soaking up the rays.
Republicans objected as Nelson sought permission to announce his decision to join the Race to #60 on the floor. Leiberman tried to delay the inevitable, but Nelson won.
It now would appear the Senate has no choice but to pass the legislation by Christmas, and overcome a swirling early winter snowstorm. The House version of the legislation passed last month, and final compromise talks are expected quickly.
Thus endeth the 2009 Race to #60 as played and won on December 18th. The Senate will now respectfully adjourn and withdraw for the Christmas Holidays. A Race well Run – everyone is proud and Ben Nelson retires the winner with $5.4 million + pension + health insurance for life.
Nelson, D-NE, said he made his decision to join in the Leiberman-led Race to #60 after winning fresh concessions to limit abortions, not to mention the tens of millions in federal Medicaid funds for his home state. He hinted loudly to the private insurance lobbyists in the press room that he had “successfully fended off attempts of a government-run, single-pay private option to compete with private insurers.”
“I know my playing the Race Card is hard for Joe to accept and I appreciate his right to pout,” Nelson said at the news conference. “But I sure did snooker him out of his Race to #60 here. Hey, someone had to win at the end of the day. Me.”
For the first time in the history of health insurance, senate legislation forces insurance companies to spend “some of their premium income on medical care for individuals and groups”. The industry stated bluntly, “this will limit our profits into the single digits, we will effectively be out of business. We are being forced to offer coverage to tens of millions who lack it. We can’t deny coverage, we have to allow pre-existing medical conditions. Our hands will be tied. Congress will feel the brunt of this denial of our just profits as the election cycle of 2010 starts to build. Don’t come looking to us anymore.”
Looking back at history, when the GOP was in “fullGingrich”, their 1990s term for power – 1994 to 2006 – the #1 #60 in the Senate was John McCain. His perfect record of 26 for 26 still stands, a monument of perfection. The “Master of Race Card Politics” trophy will retire with McCain when, and if, he does retire. He never had to attend a complete session during his entire Senate career. And he never did write any legislation, except that one sad attempt with Feingold, which will follow him to his grave.
In today’s Republican response on the results of the Race to #60, Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, in a rare Washington appearance, congratulated Ben Nelson on winning the Race to #60. “As the Senate’s top Race Card winner, I honor your valiant 6th victory here Ben.”
He then launched into an almost wordless, arm-waving tirade warning the two Senators present that “rushing to write health care legislation now would do more harm than good in today’s financial climate. The best thing the Senate should do now is to adopt a resolution stating our desires as a deliberating body to make health care more affordable to future generations. I so move.”
Alternately, the widow of Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-MA, said that the Senate bill “…is…perfect. My…husband’s…fight for…this…lasted over four…decades…. As Ted…always…said, …WTF took so…long?”
Senator Kennedy’s family holds the now-permanent second place Race to #60 trophy. His 21 wins during his 40+ years of game playing in the Senate are a testament to his efforts over a lot of dull, valueless legislation.
This is the stuff legends are made of, Joe “XIV-2ndP” Leiberman.