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Burr2Richard Burr’s ill-fated exchange with a sharp Canadian physician over the realities of health care in North America continues to rack up some great headlines for North Carolina’s senior senator.

The headline for the Los Angeles Times story is: “Watch an expert teach a smug U.S. senator about Canadian healthcare.”

At the national blog Talking Points Memo, it’s: “Canadian Health Care Expert Schools A Republican U.S. Senator.”

At Salon, it’s “Canadian doctor makes anti-Obamacare senator look like a buffoon.”

At Huffington Post, it’s: “Watch This Doctor Totally School An Anti-Obamacare Senator On Health Care.”

At the Canadian National Post, it’s: “Toronto doctor smacks down U.S. Senate question on Canadian waitlist deaths.”

In case you missed it the other day, here was the most-reported part of their exchange:

Burr: “On average, how many Canadian patients on a waiting list die each year? Do you know?”

Dr. Danielle Martin, vice president of Medical Affairs at Toronto’s Women’s College Hospital: “I don’t, sir, but I know that there are 45,000 in America who die waiting because they don’t have insurance at all.”

Blue slipOkay — this is getting ridiculous. It’s now been 264 days since President Obama nominated federal prosecutor Jennifer May-Parker  to become the first African-American judge in the history of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina (64 days since he resubmitted her name in January).

Unfortunately, the nomination remains frozen in suspended animation because one man, Senator Richard Burr, refuses to return his “blue slip” — the modest little document (pictured at left in an image borrowed from the website of the Brennan Center for Justice) that, under Senate tradition, both Senators from the home state must return in order for such a nominee to receive a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

What makes the whole thing that much more absurd, of course, is that Burr long ago signed off on May-Parker as the nominee. He even wrote a letter early in the Obama administration in which he specifically endorsed her for the job. Now, he won’t even answer questions about his actions in public.

This is clearly an unacceptable situation. Maybe Burr knows something the rest of us don’t. If he does, however, he owes it to his constituents to say what the heck it is. A more likely explanation seems to be that the senator is simply playing political games with a critically important matter of pubic business and, sadly thus far, getting away with it scot-free.

 

Sen. Richard Burr has an idea: maybe it’s time to reform our health insurance system. We could set up state-based marketplaces, give tax credits to purchase private insurance, and create some new protections for people with pre-existing conditions. But first we need to repeal the Affordable Care Act because it sets up state-based marketplaces, gives tax credits to purchase private insurance, and creates some new protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

The fact that Sen. Burr’s proposal is a watered down version of Obamacare is not its most entertaining feature. Partisan opponents of the Affordable Care Act have spent several years introducing alternatives to health reform that are just less workable variations of the law the nation has spent the past three years implementing.

What is most entertaining about Sen. Burr’s new proposal is what it says about prevention. Although the Affordable Care Act is one of the largest, most comprehensive investments ever made in prevention, it was not enough for Sen. Burr. In debates and news interviews he constantly harped on the lack of investment in prevention as the primary driver of his opposition to the ACA. In fact, he introduced an ACA alternative in 2009 called the Patients’ Choice Act. Title I of that act is “Investing in Prevention”. Prevention, after all, is the key.

What, then, does this new proposal, called “The Patient Choice, Affordability, Responsibility, and Empowerment Act,” have to say about prevention? Nothing, nothing at all. In the detailed summary of the bill there is no mention of prevention. So, Sen. Burr is now proposing that we throw away a unprecedented, large-scale prevention effort currently underway and replace it with nothing.

It’s easy enough to laugh off these public relations stunts. Even Sen. Burr has admitted that repeal is unlikely. It’s even less likely now that millions of people are enrolled in ACA plans and are receiving tax credits. But it’s sad that this is what passes for legislating nowadays. There are things that need fixing in health reform. Legislators should get to work and stop trying to strip away protections for American consumers.

 

A new press release from the North Carolina NAACP:

NC NAACP Releases Letter Calling on Sen. Richard Burr to Stop Blocking a Vote on Ms. Jennifer May-Parker’s Candidacy to Fill an Open Seat on the U.S. District Court for Eastern North Carolina

RALEIGH – The North Carolina NAACP released a letter today urging Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) to stop blocking the congressional confirmation vote of Ms. Jennifer May-Parker for the U.S. district court judgeship in Eastern North Carolina.

Reverend Dr. William J. Barber, II and the state conference also call upon the NC NAACP’s partner organizations and other people of conscience to contact Sen. Burr and let him know that they oppose his continued efforts to obstruct the appointment of a well-qualified African-American attorney to the court seat.

“The North Carolina NAACP, the people of North Carolina, say today that we will never stand by as justice is delayed,” Dr. Barber said on Jan. 25 when he announced the initiative. “Because justice delayed is justice denied.” Read More

Burr2It’s becoming increasingly clear that at some point, Senator Richard Burr is going to have to explain his one-man, silent filibuster of the nomination of federal prosecutor Jennifer May-Parker to serve on the federal District Court for North Carolina’s Eastern District.

As this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer reports, the Congressional Black Caucus is now weighing in full force on the issue:

“U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield says the Congressional Black Caucus is discussing how to break the logjam over the nomination of Jennifer May-Parker to the fill the federal district court judicial vacancy in the Eastern District of North Carolina. Read More