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Wednesday, Jan 6, 2010, 7:54 am

Weekly Pulse: Dorgan and Dodd Resign

By Lindsay Beyerstein

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Two Democratic senators unexpectedly announced their resignations on Tuesday. Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Chris Dodd (D-CT) announced that they would not seek reelection when their terms expire in 2010. Hopefully, health care reform will already have passed by then, but the departure of these senators will have implications for health care policy.

As far as the Democratic majority in the Senate is concerned, the two resignations probably cancel each other out. As a relatively conservative 30-year incumbent, Dorgan was thought to be the only Democrat who could win a seat in conservative North Dakota. Dodd, on the other hand, is deeply unpopular for his role in the financial crisis, but hails from a deep blue state, so it should be easy to replace him with another Democrat. In fact, as Eric Kleefeld reports for Talking Points Memo, Dodd's resignation improves the Democrats' chances of holding that seat.

As Jodi Jacobson explains in RH Reality Check, losing Dorgan would be a setback for reproductive rights. While Dorgan has a mixed record on choice, "Given his state, Dorgan's voting record is pretty progressive on at least some issues otherwise driven completely by ideology," Jacobson writes.

Dodd is reliably pro-choice, but the pro-choice credentials of the candidate favored to take his place, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, are even more distinguished.

Last year, Blumenthal sued the Bush administration over so-called "conscience clauses" for the Department of Health and Human Services which would have given employees more latitude to refuse to provide medical care that they disapproved of on religious grounds. (The Obama administration later reversed the rule.) In 1995, Blumenthal and the U.S. Department of Justice filed suit against two anti-abortion protesters under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act. "Our goal was to defuse a volatile situation before it escalated into a bloodbath, such as the fatal shootings in Brookline, Massachusetts," Blumenthal explained at the time. Blumenthal and DOJ prevailed in court in 1997.

In other health care news, an unnamed Senate aide told the Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire blog that the Democrats are planning to streamline the passage of the health care reform bill by skipping the conference committee. Normally, the House and Senate versions of a bill are combined in conference. This time, Democrats may skip that step by hammering out a deal that is acceptable to the Senate, having the House pass that bill, and then having the Senate pass the same legislation. That way, Democrats can circumvent some procedural hurdles in the Senate.

According to Kevin Drum of Mother Jones, skipping conference has become routine for big Democratic bills. These days, thanks to stricter rules about what can be added in conference, the House and the Senate are more likely to reconcile big bills through the aforementioned "ping pong" process.

John Nichols of The Nation argues that skipping conference will leave progressives out in the cold. Until now, a lot of progressive energy has been focused on strengthening certain provisions of the Senate bill in conference. If the Democrats decide to skip conference, that means that all the power will be in the hands of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and a handful of their closest allies.

Finally, Monica Potts of TAPPED discusses a new study that purports to show that the so-called "g-spot" doesn't exist. Headlines are proclaiming that the g-spot is a myth. The results of the study have been misinterpreted in the general rush to proclaim that science has proven women wrong about their bodies. What the study really showed is that genes have little to do with whether a woman thinks she has one.

These results suggest that the g-spot isn't a unique organ encoded in our genetic plan, like a spleen or a kidney, but that there's no doubt that the front wall of the vagina exists, nor that some women report orgasms from stimulating that area. What other anatomical questions are investigated with surveys? Do you have a pancreas? Chances are you've never directly observed your pancreas. Whether you say "yes" depends whether you've read that humans have them.

Whether women agreed that they had g-spots had more to do with their age. Younger women, raised in an era where women's magazines assert that g-spots are a standard part of female anatomy, were more likely to believe they had them. What this study was really measuring was a general belief in the existence of g-spots, which has no genetic component. Belief in the pancreas has no genetic component either, but it doesn't follow that these organs are mythical.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Lindsay Beyerstein is an award-winning investigative journalist and In These Times staff writer who writes the blog Duly Noted. Her stories have appeared in Newsweek, Salon, Slate, The Nation, Ms. Magazine, and other publications. Her photographs have been published in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times' City Room. She also blogs at The Hillman Blog (, a publication of the Sidney Hillman Foundation, a non-profit that honors journalism in the public interest.

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