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Posts Tagged ‘health care reform’

Mr. President, Press Senate for Public Option Through Reconciliation

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

An open letter to President Obama on the eve of the bipartisan health care reform summit:

February 24, 2010

Dear President Obama:

I am writing to you as an Organizing for America volunteer to thank you for calling Thursday’s health reform summit, getting the ball rolling again. I like your proposal that the government regulate excessive insurance premium increases—but would this be necessary if we had a non-private, single-payer option and real competition? We shouldn’t be stuck with an all-private, for-profit system. If you seriously support a cost-saving public option, why does your plan omit it? Why omit Medicare expansion? These would be the most popular and comprehensive reforms. Please, Mr. President, be bold for reform: push the Senate to pass a public option through reconciliation. The Democratic senators are timid, waiting for you to give directions. Crack the whip. You are popular; you are the leader. This is no time for defeatist loser-talk like Robert Gibbs’s in the press conference yesterday. “The votes aren’t there”? Bull. Phone the senators. That’s what OFA and I have been doing—but your calls carry a little more weight.

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“We don’t quit. I don’t quit.”

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

To Democrats, I would remind you that we still have the largest majority in decades, and the people expect us to solve problems, not run for the hills.” —President Obama, Jan. 27, 2010

That was our favorite line of the State of the Union address. Now, the president and the general public should keep reminding the congressional Democrats of this fact every day, for how easily they forget. In a speech that did not shrink at all from his ambitious agenda—but that wisely set the necessity of reforms in the context of economic necessity—the president challenged everyone in the room to keep working, and work harder, to deliver the change that the American people voted for in 2008.

Probably our second most appreciated challenge was the one that followed, directed at the cool-handed Republicans:

And if the Republican leadership is going to insist that 60 votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this town—a supermajority—then the responsibility to govern is now yours as well. [Applause] Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it’s not leadership. We were sent here to serve our citizens, not our ambitions.

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OMG! Wake-Up Calls and Queasy Stomachs

Monday, January 18th, 2010

Two posts that should be read in full—“A Wake-Up Call” by Robert Kuttner on what the Massachusetts special election for senator tells us about the Rahm Emanuel White House’s wrong priorities—and another by a reader at Talking Points Memo who was calling voters in Massachusetts to vote for Martha Coakley and found too many presumed Democrats who are planning to vote for the Republican—to fill the seat once occupied by the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

From “A Wake-Up Call” by Robert Kuttner:

How could the health care issue have turned from a reform that was going to make Barack Obama ten feet tall into a poison pill for Democratic senators? Whether or not Martha Coakley squeaks through in Massachusetts on Tuesday, the health bill has already done incalculable political damage and will likely do more. . . . The measure is so unpopular that Republican State Senator Scott Brown has built his entire surge against Coakley around his promise to be the 41st senator to block the bill—this in Ted Kennedy’s Massachusetts. He must be pretty confident that the bill has become politically radioactive, and he’s right. . . .

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“Winter of Our Discontent”

Monday, December 21st, 2009

A_Christmas_Carol_08In the already-dark of the shortest day of the year, the first day of winter, rather than denying the obvious it feels appropriate to acknowledge a certain lowness of spirits, a mood that the holidays will warm temporarily but not dispel altogether. “Winter of our discontent” (besides opening Shakespeare’s Richard III) was the title of a fund-raising e-mail The Nation sent out last week, and the phrase pretty well describes the mood. This time last year, even though it felt like the U.S. and global economy was spinning down into an abyss, there was much hope in the air because of the outcome of the 2008 presidential election. (It felt almost too good to be true.) Now, the mood is not what one would call elation, or hopeful. “Yes we can” feels like a long time ago.

The Senate Democrats are moving along with their health reform bill, but it is hard to know what to think about it. A few conservative, corporate Democrats and a certain self-styled independent have been posing a greater danger to the ultimate passage than the whole united bloc of intransigent Republicans. So far, since Saturday, the Democrats have held together with the filibuster-proof 60 votes, and many of the outspoken progressive, liberal voices who were critical this time last week are holding their fire, realizing that if this fails, much more we hold dear could crash and burn besides. (Brian Beutler at Talking Points Memo lays out the steps toward passage.)

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Obama, Lieberman, Emanuel—
All Skewered as Not “Tough Enough to Govern”

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

Joe Conason in a hard-hitting Truthout op-ed rips Joe Lieberman for demanding, and President Obama and his chief of staff and “self-styled tough guy from Chicago” Rahm Emanuel for bowing to the gutting of the elements of real reform in the Senate health care legislation:

By bowing to Sen. Joseph Lieberman and his obstructive pals in both parties on health care reform, President Obama has confirmed what Republicans always say about Democrats: They simply aren’t strong enough to govern. Or at least the Democrats elected last year—and their colleagues in the Senate leadership—don’t seem to be.

Their moment of truth came when Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff and self-styled tough guy from Chicago, urged the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, to strip out the most progressive aspects of the proposed health care reform bill in order to appease Lieberman. Unless the Connecticut senator got his way, he threatened to join a Republican filibuster—conniving with a political minority to kill reforms that a majority of Americans has wanted and needed for decades.

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Senate Dems, Stop: Go to Reconciliation (51 Votes)

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

“Not Health, Not Care, Not Reform”

Ed. Note: The writer of this post volunteered for about a half-dozen Organizing for America phone banks to ask voters to call their senators to press for a public option.

The Senate Democrats’ over-compromised health reform legislation should be killed, and efforts should turn now to a reconciliation process by which only 51 votes would be needed. Take the best elements still remaining—the health insurance exchange idea, and funding for prevention and wellness and for community health care centers—and add in universal access to Medicare, and put it up for a vote through reconciliation. You can keep your present policy if you like it, but you’d have the option of going with Medicare whether you’re 22 or 64. (We concede that 51 votes may not be attainable, but chances are good, especially if, for a change, the president will seriously push for it.)

Dr DeanThe reconciliation route is a strategy that the good doctor and health reform leader Gov. Howard Dean has been recommending for months and is pressing for now with renewed vigor—and freaking out the Obama White House and Senate Democratic leadership. (Dean is not saying give up: see his op-ed in the Washington Post here.) The reconciliation process may sound arcane, but as a rule-abiding way of bypassing Senate filibusters it has been used almost 30 times since 1980, including for budget- and health-care related legislation such as COBRA for health-care insurance portability, expanded eligibility for Medicaid, and the state Children’s Health Insurance Program (better known as S-CHIP). It was also used by congressional Republicans to pass the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts that mainly benefited the upper-income tax brackets. It is time to use it again . . . for the public good.

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“We Need Strong Leadership” on Health Care Reform

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

Talking Points Memo reports that Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), co-chairman of the House Progressive Caucus, released a statement Tuesday that calls “troubling” the White House and Senate Democrats’ compromises on the public option—by this point a mere shadow of the original idea (itself a compromise short of universal coverage). Senate leaders and the White House, said Grijalva,

have already compromised far too much. At some point in this process, the question became not what was the best policy for the American people, but what could be done to appease a recalcitrant handful who have negotiated in bad faith. We need strong leadership so close to the finish line, not efforts to water down a bill to the breaking point in a misguided attempt to win votes that were never there.

The House of Representatives voted on its bill on November . Since that vote, the action has been in the Senate. The action has consisted mainly of compromises and wrangling with stubborn “conserva-Dems” such as Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln, and “independent” Joe Lieberman, and continued courting of the Republicans from Maine, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. As of this week, the Senate seems to be moving toward creating a nonprofit board rather than a truly public option (which Lieberman has said he will not vote for, no matter how watered down it may be). Grijalva says of the nonprofit board idea:

A non-public option without government support will not bring down prices, expand coverage or provide competition for private companies. . . . Voters will instantly recognize it as a whitewash of the problem we have spent the better part of this year trying to fix. They would be right to criticize any plan that fails to address their concerns, and they will be doubly right to reject this one.

We need a public option, period. . . . I cannot support a system that forces Americans to buy private insurance and then allows those companies to collect government subsidies without competition. Our final health care bill should be based on policy outcomes and the needs of consumers, and the direction the Senate is taking does not give me confidence.



It’s Not About You—It’s All About Joe

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

When long-serving Connecticut senator Joseph Isidore Lieberman lost the Democratic primary to telecommunications executive Ned Lamont in August 2006, rather than bow out as defeated candidates normally do, he persisted (with financial assistance from the national Republican party) and formed his own third party, Connecticut for Lieberman. He defeated Lamont in his bid for reelection in November 2006. Even though a strong majority of Connecticut voters want health reform legislation that includes a federally managed public option (comparable to Medicare) to compete with private insurers by offering lower rates, Lieberman refuses to vote for any bill that includes a public option, no matter how watered down. (See our previous post “Public-Supported Health Care Has Worked for You, Joe Lieberman.”) This ad was produced by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.