For Chrissake, If You Really Care About America, Tell Harry Reid “No”
This is an appeal to all Progressive Senators, whom I, perhaps mistakenly, list as including: Bernie Sanders, Sherrod Brown, Russ Feingold, Pat Leahy, Al Franken, Sheldon Whitehouse, Tom Harkin, Ron Wyden, Patty Murray, Dick Durbin, Barbra Boxer, Byron Dorgan, Barbara Mikulski, Ben Cardin, Jay Rockefeller, Chuck Schumer, and Paul Kirk. My apologies to Amy Klobuchar, Maria Cantwell, Carl Levin, Debbie Stabenow, Michael Bennett, Jon Tester, John Kerry, and Jack Reed, if I've done one or more of you an injustice by not including you in this first list. And if I have, I wish you'd consider this post as an appeal to you too.
Briefly, I appeal to each of you to tell Harry Reid that you will vote “no” on any Senate health care reform bill that has individual mandates without a public option, or a Medicare buy-in option for people under 65, lifetime limits on insurance coverage, doesn't outlaw: denials of coverage based on preconditions, rescissions, and price discrimination based on previous illness, or preconditions, or socio-economic grouping, doesn't require medical loss ratios of 90% or more, and doesn't take full effect by early fall of 2010.
If you fail to do this, but maintain your present position that the emerging Senate bill ought to get your vote, because it has some good things in it, then you, not the Republicans, not the blue dogs, and not the President will be to blame for the passage of this awful bill. I say this because, at this point in the legislative process, it is plainly within your individual and collective power to prevent this bail-out of the private insurance companies at the expense of the taxpayers, and to require the passage of a health care reform bill that is much superior to this one. With that power comes responsibility and obligation, and also blame, if you fail to live up to those responsibilities.
As many of you folks are fond of saying, let me be clear. The President, Harry Reid, and the Congressional Democrats, taken as a group, must have a health care reform bill before the 2010 elections, and while they may not be aware of it, they also need one that will benefit people before election time. So, if you say “no” at this point to Harry Reid's bill, they have a problem. Joe Lieberman, Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu, and Blanche Lincoln have said no to the public option, no to an option to buy into Medicare, no to any meaningful controls on the insurance companies, no to removing lifetime caps on insurance coverage, and yes to limits to limits on coverage that will greatly interfere with a woman's right to choose. Now, one or hopefully a group of progressives, if you decide to act, would be saying that they won't accept a bill that these four find acceptable. That's a circle that neither Rahm, nor anyone else can square, and still retain the 60-vote frame for legislation.
This means that for the Administration and Harry Reid, the situation becomes reconciliation, or death for health care reform. They have no choice, but to go for reconciliation, because it takes them out of the 60-vote frame. And if they do, the bill goes back to the House, and when it comes back to the Senate it will be subject to majority rule without filibusters. The power of Joe, Ben, Mary, and Blanche will be gone, but the power of a bloc of 15 – 20 progressives will remain, because you will then hold the balance of power in the Senate. The bill that emerges from this process can be a much improved health care reform bill, and can approach, much more closely, the long-time support of a majority of the American people for Medicare for All.
In particular, that bill need not to be fashioned, as the present bill is, in such a way that it will continue to allow 40,000 fatalities, more than a million bankruptcies, and foreclosures in the hundred of thousands for the first four years it is in operation. Nor need it be constructed in such a way that the six following years still allows 31,000 fatalities, more than a million bankruptcies, and foreclosures in the hundred of thousands. Nor need it be constructed in such a way that it delivers probably 15 million additional customers to the private insurers without giving them a choice in the matter. (Sorry, I don't accept the forecast many Democrats have been handing out that 30 million more people will be covered if the present bill is passed. Plain and simple, I think that's dreaming, and for those who believe it, I have a very big bridge to sell you. Because of wholesale non-compliance with this bill, if you folks go ahead with it, you won't get more than 15 million people covered by 2015, and no more thereafter.)
Reading this last paragraph, it should now be clear to Progressive Senators and to others why I'm appealing to you to say "no" to the present bill. The “goodie bag” in it isn't nearly enough to overcome the likelihood that it will still allow those thousands of deaths, millions of bankruptcies, and foreclosures in the hundred of thousands. It isn't nearly enough that it makes up for your delivering the outrageous additional wealth and power to the private health insurance industry as a result of this mandated increase in their customer base. As progressives it is your responsibility to oppose this bill and insist that it be reconstructed using reconciliation. And, each of you who fails to do that will be deserving of everlasting blame and shame for your failure to end the continuing deaths, bankruptcies, and foreclosures, and the further step toward the defeat of Democracy and the victory of Plutocracy in America, that will be the consequences of this awful and undemocratic bill. And you will also be deserving of the certain defeat that your Party will suffer in the fall of 2010, if you don't do something now to make this bill a good one for working people. Remember, if you don't act in such a way that it is plain that you care about working people, about their deaths, their bankruptcies, and their home foreclosures, then why, in heaven's name, should they care about what happens to you?