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The Skinny




Democrats finally pushed their health-care package across the finish line over the weekend—and we'll be straight with you: We don't know enough about it to tell you whether it's gonna work or not.

We're sure it's far from perfect and will need plenty of work down the road. But we're also sure about this: The health-care system has been leaving more and more people without coverage, while those who have insurance are paying more every year.

Both members of Southern Arizona's congressional delegation had concerns about the health-care reform package, but in the end, both ended up voting for it.

For Congressman Raúl Grijalva, the vote was a little easier, although the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus had to come to grips with the fact that he was settling for a lot less than he wanted. The result of negotiations with everyone from the AARP to Sen. Joe Lieberman, the reform bill is a relatively moderate proposal that doesn't even include a public option, much less a new single-payer system.

However, Grijalva didn't want to end up known as one of the guys who scuttled health-care reform. And he isn't facing much opposition in November, so he didn't have much to lose by supporting a bill that he sees as a step in the right direction.

It's Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who has her neck on the line. The Blue Dog represents a district where Republicans outnumber Democrats, although independent voters are the key to winning the district.

It took no time at all for the GOP candidates who are fighting for the chance to take on Giffords in November to go after her for her support of the bill.

Jonathan Paton, the former state senator who stepped down to challenge Giffords, called it "a disaster for America," while Jesse Kelly declared that "we must stand up against Obama, Pelosi, Reid and the rest of the arrogant socialists in Congress."

Both candidates have promised to push for the bill's repeal—which ain't going to happen, no matter what Sen. John McCain says.

Giffords is returning fire. Earlier this week, she asked Obama administration officials to calculate the loss that Arizona will suffer from as a result of the GOP state budget, which was passed earlier this month.

One merely has to look at the GOP-controlled Arizona Legislature to see how screwed up our market-based health-care system is. Earlier this month, to balance the state's budget, Republicans cut an estimated 310,000 adults below the poverty line from state-subsidized care, and dumped KidsCare, which provided health insurance for roughly 38,000 Arizona children.

Those moves were designed to save the state about $800 million a year, but Arizona will also lose an estimated $1.6 billion in federal matching funds that would otherwise help prop up hospitals and doctors. And under the new health-care legislation, the reduction in services could mean the state could lose all of its Medicare funding, which totals nearly $7 billion a year.

That underlines why the health-care cuts were a lousy idea. Even the Arizona Chamber of Commerce recognized that the health-care cuts were going to devastate hospitals and force insurance companies to raise rates. (See "The Ax Man Cometh," March 18, for details.)

Gov. Jan Brewer says those people who lost health insurance can still find care in the emergency room. Great plan, Jan. Nothing says compassionate conservatism like taking away meds from people with chronic medical problems and letting them get so sick that they have to seek emergency care.

Bonus points for coming up with a plan that will ensure that emergency rooms remain so crowded that when people have heart attacks or bursting appendixes, they have longer waits, because you thought it was a good idea to make the ER the clinic of last resort.


Rasmussen Reports told us last week that former congressman J.D. Hayworth was breathing down Sen. John McCain's neck, with just a 7-point gap in a recent poll.

Hayworth had the support of 41 percent of Republicans surveyed, while our senior senator was at 48 percent. Rasmussen noted that the numbers had tightened since a January poll, and that "incumbents who poll less than 50 percent at this stage of a campaign are considered potentially vulnerable."

Our sources close to the McCain campaign tell us their internal polls show McCain with a comfortable 20-point lead, which seems closer to reality.

Hayworth is running into problems of his own. Last week, he lost his main ad man, high-priced public-relations guru Jason Rose, who quit because Hayworth couldn't afford him. That's a sign that fundraising isn't what J.D. hoped it would be.

Rasmussen also let us know that the GOP primary is tight, with Gov. Jan Brewer, state Treasurer Dean Martin and political newcomer Buz Mills each garnering about 20 percent. Tucson attorney John Munger was trailing the pack at 10 percent, while 23 percent remained undecided.

In the general election, Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard, the likely Democratic nominee, leads Brewer, 45 percent to 36 percent. But Martin beats Goddard, 43 percent to 38 percent, and Mills beats the Democrat, 43 percent to 37 percent.

The Rasmussen survey also showed that 53 percent of voters were likely to support the one-cent sales tax that voters will decide on May 18, while 36 percent oppose it, and 11 percent are undecided.

Those are weaker numbers than we saw in a recent poll released by supporters showing that 58 percent of those polled supported the sales tax, while 35 percent were likely to vote against it. Just 7 percent said they were undecided.

Also, support for sales taxes tends to fall off as an election approaches, so the supporters still have plenty of work to do.

Meanwhile, opponents of the tax are bringing out their secret weapon: Joe the Plumber.

Yes, that's right: Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, whose 15 minutes of fame should have ended a long time ago, is still giving economic advice to Arizona conservatives. What does he know about Arizona's economy? Absolutely nothing, but he knows taxes are bad, and that's enough for the folks who oppose the tax.

And with each day, Arizona politics get just a little bit dumber.


There's just enough room for a quick Blogislature update: One of the bills that we're following, a ban on texting while driving, passed the state Senate on Monday, after an earlier failure.

The bill is now headed to the House for consideration.

Meanwhile, an effort to save the payday-loan sharks fell apart last week. That's good news for all of the poor saps who got caught in a spiral of debt, but bad news for those occasionally desperate souls who used the service responsibly. And it's even worse news for Arizona's shopping-center owners, who are going to have a lot of vacancies if the payday-loan industry goes out of business later this year.

There's lots more going on at the Legislature, but you'll have to check The Range for those details—and so much more!

Find early and late-breaking Skinny at The Range, our daily dispatch.

Follow the Skinny scribe on Twitter (but not while driving): @Nintzel

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