Monday, 25 January 2010

After Massachusetts: Where are we, and where do we go from here?‏‏

UPDATE: Center for American Progress President John Podesta has embraced my "Pass the Senate Bill and amend it through reconciliation" plan as outlined below. John's a pretty smart guy...

Dear friends,

Last week, our party suffered a massive setback by losing the Massachusetts Senate special election.

Although the Senate seat in question was universally described as "Ted Kennedy's" seat, the truth is that Teddy himself never took it for granted: he worked his tail off every year, and campaigned fiercely in every election, for the people of Massachusetts.

Whether the Republican Scott Brown will be the kind of Senator who lives up to Ted Kennedy's ideal of hard-working service remains to be seen. But he has not made a good start with his position that the moderate, bipartisan universal health care system currently operating in Massachusetts is good for citizens there, but would be bad for the rest of America. Scott Brown has vowed to reject comprehensive health care reform, leaving Democrats without the 60 votes that current Senate protocol expects for any legislation.*

So, has health care reform been defeated?


We have passed comprehensive health reform through both houses of Congress. No one has ever gotten this far before - and it means we're inches away from the finish line. If we have the will to step over it.

The simplest route to passage of a comprehensive health care reform package would be for the US House of Representatives to pass without amendment the bill passed in the Senate. If House Democrats were willing to do this, we could literally have a bill on the President's desk tomorrow for signature.

Is the Senate bill everything I would hope for? No. But it is a giant step forward towards real reform. It instantly ends the most offensive and unfair practices of the insurance industry (rescission, denial for pre-existing conditions, and lifetime caps on coverage, for instance) while establishing in law for the first time the principle that every American must have insurance. It creates a national health care exchange that for the first time creates nationwide competition free from our broken system of state by state regulation. It offers tiered subsidies that fill the gap between the rich and the poor, levelling the playing field for the middle class. It?s a start. A very good start.

But House Democrats are rumoured to be saying that they won't support it.

By holding out for better, House Democrats would almost certain wind up with nothing at all. And that's not good enough. Not this time. We just can't afford another generation of delay before we get serious about solving the health care crisis.

What Can We Do?

I suggest** the following: each and every one of us should call our Congressional Representatives THIS WEEK. We should give them the following message:
  • We expect them to deliver comprehensive health care reform. We?ll be very disappointed and upset if they surrender at this point.
  • We understand that they may be nervous about their own personal prospects for re-election this year.
  • But if they do deliver this key promise, they will have our unrelenting support. We will raise money. We will call voters. We will tell all of our friends and family how proud we are of what our congressperson has accomplished.
  • In short, if you have our backs, we will have yours.
Please call your Representative today, and please e-mail me back to let me know what they say.

The American people need our leaders to have the courage of their own convictions. And each and every one of us needs to get busy making that happen. Break's over.

Thank you!

Karin J. Robinson

* Whether this supermajority standard is reasonable in the first place is the subject of another message for another day, but these are the rules under which the current bills were passed, and for the purposes of this exercise we need to assume that it will not change during the current health care debate.

** Please note, as always this e-mail is sent in a personal capacity and not on behalf of Democrats Abroad, the Obama administration or the Democratic Party as a whole. I am asking this of you as a citizen and passionate supporter of this Administration who wants it to succeed.

1 comment:

Julian said...

I have already written to my representative, Luís Gutiérrez, to ask him to hold his nose and pass the Senate bill in the House. I also asked him to do what he can through reconciliation to amend that bill toward being more progressive after it becomes law.

If the House is not to pass the bill*, then I say that we should fight to get any conference committee proposal through both houses. I am reminded of the Democrats' experience in the healthcare battle of 1994. They let the mere threat of a Republican filibuster stop them from pushing ahead, meaning that the GOP won without any effort or sacrifice. The fact that the Republicans got what they wanted without a real battle didn't lessen the conservative crusade; rather, it provided it with increased electoral momentum.

If the GOP is going to obstruct the Democratic agenda, then I say that we should make them all vote against cloture dozens of times during the day and night. The media narrative right now is that the Democrats are pushing their wild agenda on a sceptical minority. We need to force the Republicans to show that the reality is that they are overriding the will of 59% of the Senate.

*And, for the record, I do not think that there is much to gain from not passing the Senate bill into law now. I expect that anything coming from conference committee will require as much nose-holding as the Senate bill. My point about how to proceed if the Senate bill isn't passed is that quitters don't frame the future debate.