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.
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.
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.