Bob Franken

Health Care: The Final Floor

What a terrible choice House members will have to make this weekend. No, not whether to vote up or down on health care reform, but whether to watch CBS and that the NCAA basketball tournament or turn on the news channels for that other March Madness.

It’s a dilemma for all of us. Imagine how President Obama must feel. Already he has had to cancel his Asia vacation because of health care, although come to think of it, maybe that was just a handy excuse for him to stay home to watch some hoops.

As everyone in Washington goes through THEIR hoops, we can all benefit from some viewing tips for those who tune into the Congressional tourney. First of all, ignore the fact that Republicans are crying “FOUL!!” They’re playing only defense, their Point Guard John Bonner is finger pointing from the sidelines. The Democrats are fighting their usual ferocious intramural battles.

There are still Single Payer players, some side-skirmishes over Abortion, Blue Dog fights, and heaven knows what else going on in the House gym. By the way, is it true that the gym’s theme song is “Y-M-C-A”?

Back in the White House clubhouse, head coach Obama and his assistant Joe Biden, looking for a win after his embarrassing Mideast tour, are going crazy with their remotes. They switch back and forth, back and forth, from basketball to wrestling, coming up with every kind of arm twisting you can imagine. And probably a few you cannot. Unless you are Rahm Emanuel. In the House gym.

From what we understand the President’s brackets have already been obliterated by the Friday night first round . Come to think of it we probably need some brackets for the Rollerball in the Capitol.

The big problem though is that if health care loses in the House the tournament is over. So to construct brackets, we have to assume it will pass. Even then, don’t be surprised if the game goes far into overtime. If it does survive the action picks up next week in the Reconciliation Regional.

Same building, different field house . The Senate floor is the scene of the action, although action in the Senate makes a sport like Curling look frantic.

If we do have a bracket, remember it only shows the same two teams…the Dems and the GOPs. But in round 2 the players are different and so are the rules. In this league throwing sharp elbows is not only allowed but encouraged as long as it’s done politely.

Senate Republicans do get to play. Even though they have had their foulabuster taken away from them, they can still can still use tactics designed to run out the clock and stupefy anyone trying to watch. But let’s assume the legislation escapes this graveyard and finally dribbles out of the Capitol.

As always, the President will invite the NCAA champs to the White House. And of course, there’s the annual egg roll. Add to that a bodacious signing ceremony. That one will obviously include only Democrats. Republicans have been strictly “No” shows.

They know, and we know that any celebration is way premature.
Everything they have been doing is aimed at scoring points against Democrats running for re-election in November. That’s when the Finals are held. That’s when we’ll really need brackets to keep track of competitions in the hundreds that are all make up what’s really one big game.

It’s the fight for control of Congress, and whether anything moves between that tournament and the one two years later. It’s important this weekend to note an important difference between the NCAA games and the political ones.

As we watch each basketball matchup, we’ll be cheering for one team or the other. In the Congressional competition most of us will rooting against both sides.

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