Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Progressive support for Senate's current incarnation of healthcare reform bill collapses

The Obama Administration's months-old decision to let the likes of Max Baucus, Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson to dictate the shape and the language of the Senate's version of healthcare reform is having serious, major repercussions.

Hours after Harry Reid and the White House agreed to Lieberman's demand that the idea of a Medicare buy-in (which he has long supported) be dropped from the bill, progressive support for the whole Senate enchilada began swiftly collapsing.

Howard Dean appeared on Vermont Public Radio and Countdown with Keith Olbermann yesterday to declare that the Senate version should be scrapped, and that Congress should start over on healthcare reform. (He subsequently penned an op-ed for the Washington Post, putting his thoughts into print).

Darcy Burner, head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus Policy Foundation, made the same argument at OpenLeft, which was crossposted at Huffington Post.

The leadership of the AFL-CIO and the SEIU announced they were holding emergency meetings today to decide whether they could continue to support healthcare reform, considering the awful mess the Senate has come up with.

A new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows that support for healthcare reform has sunk to its lowest level ever, following days and weeks of news coverage about the abandonment of the public option, which itself was a compromise.

Senator Bernie Sanders, arguably the most progressive legislator in the United States Senate, told Fox's Neil Cavuto he can't vote for the bill as written:
I’m struggling with this. As of this point, I’m not voting for the bill. … I’m going to do my best to make this bill a better bill, a bill that I can vote for, but I’ve indicated both to the White House and the Democratic leadership that my vote is not secure at this point. And here is the reason. When the public option was withdrawn, because of Lieberman’s action, what I worry about is how do you control escalating health care costs?
And tonight, Keith Olbermann broadcast an eloquent, forceful Special Comment imploring Obama and Reid to at least drop the mandate out of the bill if they weren't willing to stick with a public option.
The mandate in this bill under which we are required to buy insurance must be stripped out.

The bill now is little more than a legally mandated delivery of the middle class (and those whose dreams of joining it slip ever further away) into a kind of Chicago stockyards of insurance. Make enough money to take care of yourself and your family and you must buy insurance — on the insurers terms — or face a fine.

This provision must go. It is, above all else, immoral and a betrayal of the people who elected you, Sir. You must now announce that you will veto any bill lacking an option or buy-in, but containing a mandate.

And Senator Reid, put the public option back in, or the Medicare Buy-In, or both. Or single-payer. Let Lieberman and Ben Nelson and Baucus and the Republicans vote their lack-of-conscience and preclude 60 "ayes." Let them commit political suicide instead of you.

Activists are sick of excuse-making and the White House's seeming obsession with shaking down progressive lawmakers instead of putting pressure on Blue Dogs. We've tired of hearing the uncreative spiel that Obama and Gibbs have to offer every time they're asked about hurdles and barriers to healthcare reform. We know this issue is difficult and that we can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

But the version of the bill the Senate has come up with is unworkable long term. Why? Because it keeps us shackled to a failed, broken for-profit healthcare system, which is immoral. Certainly there are good provisions in the bill, even without a public option. But the mandate - sans a government-sponsored plan - is a major dealbreaker. The whole point of the public option was to give Americans a choice, to allow people to get coverage through the government rather a faceless, heartless corporation. Since that's not in the bill, the mandate shouldn't be either.


Blogger Martha Koester said...

Well, I am shocked!! SHOCKED!! that when the Progressive Caucus signalled that they were willing to accept any compromise at all to get anything at all passed, that the well-heeled money people took them up on it.

Suppose they had said from the start "It's single payer or nothing. But maybe you could sweet-talk us into accepting the compromise of a public option whhich would be open to anybody with no conditions at all." Jeebus. On my planet, if you want to sell your used car for $3000, what you ask for on Craig's List or the Little Nickel is $6000.

December 17, 2009 10:58 AM  

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