While You Were Watching The MJ Memorial

From the Senate HELP Committee mark-up of the Affordable Health Choices Act, Russell Caucus Room.

There were plenty of TV cameras and famous and not-so-famous people, but nary a gold casket in sight at the Senate’s Caucus Room earlier today, when the HELP Committee resumed the heavy lifting of whittling its Democratically agreed upon health reform plan down to a size that Republicans might deign to swallow.

Courtesy Flickr user Asim Bijarani

Courtesy Flickr user Asim Bijarani

As the Michael Jackson memorial tribute got underway in Los Angeles, the smattering of reporters and onlookers at the Senate hearing might have been hoping for a Thriller, but instead, got mostly a snoozefest of Democratic platitudes about insuring all Americans and Republican outrage about huge new government spending.

But hey, maybe that’s just human nature.

The bill spends too much and taxes too much, said Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.).  It will cover 97% of the uninsured, said acting chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.).  The long-term care insurance provision amounts to “bait and switch” and a $2 trillion unfunded liability for taxpayers, said Judd Gregg (R-N.H.). The bill is a “charade” said the unusually understated Tom Coburn (R-Okla.).  It uses a “budget gimmick” to get to its relatively low price tag, said Enzi, who advised Dodd to take a close look at The Man in The Mirror. Orrin Hatch sang the same tune, but in a slightly different key.

Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough. 

At about noon, the senators Beat It for the swearing in of Al Franken (D-Minn.) and an extended lunch in his honor. Not that anyone except the P.Y.T.s on Capitol Hill cared.

The HELP Committee resumes its deliberations on Wednesday. 

— Alicia Ault (on Twitter @aliciaault)

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