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US Politics

Villains by The Handful

The Vote

The 15 to 8 vote against the Rockefeller amendment to provide a healthcare public option titled a “Community Choice Health Plan” brought about its defeat in the Senate finance committee on Tuesday. The brainchild of Democrat Senator John D Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, any chance of his plan passing was crushed by five dissenting Democrat Senators who cast their lot with all ten Republican members of the Senate Finance Committee.

The Recalcitrant 5

The offending Democrat Senators were Baucus of Montana, Carper of Delaware, Conrad of North Dakota, Lincoln of Arkansas, and Nelson of Florida. There can be no valid excuse for voting against a public option plan which offers the opportunity to deliver affordable healthcare to approx 46 million uninsured Americans. Especially a proposal designed to ensure real competition in the marketplace to force down the healthcare costs of insurance for all Americans.

The President Must Act

President Obama needs to have a serious talk with these five Democrats. To achieve his goals he must seize the day to state clearly and publicly on national television, his unequivocal support for a government managed non profit public option to deliver affordable healthcare insurance.  John D Rockefeller IV and Chuck Schumer have done very creditible lead up work.  Now is the time for the President to state his mind categorically on the critical issue of a Public Option and demand that Democrats get on with passing it in the Senate.

Russian Roulette

His second term and the country’s prospects, post the election of 2012, could well be determined by the success or failure of his leadership on this issue. Republicans know this. But not apparently, the five Democrats guilty of playing Russian Roulette with their election chances and the well being of all Americans .

An Uncaring and Selfish Decision

This disgraceful quintette with its likely externally financed decision to vote against a Public Option signals a zero appreciation of the vital importance of providing fellow Americans with universal healthcare insurability with an undoubted capacity to positively impact on the productivity, quality of life and future happiness of all Americans.

Democrats must unite on this issue, or risk seeing the election of another madcap Republican President in 2012.



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  1. Using current data from the US Census Bureau, one learns that the five recalcitrant Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee represent fewer than 24 million persons or less than eight per cent of the current US population. Because they were instrumental in blocking a public option from the bill they and all the GOP members of the committee are drafting, at least 46 million (15 per cent) of their fellow Americans will lack inclusive, affordable health insurance. One hopes that in merging the Finance Committee’s draft with that of the late Senator Kennedy’s HELP Committee now chaired by Senator Harkin), a public option will be salvaged. If that fails, only a compromise between House and Senate can save the public option. But when four of five Congressional committees include a public option, to lose it in the end would be a travesty and a great loss for all Americans, the President, and the Democratic Party.

    There are two shopworn excuses for excuding a public option as part of health care reform: (1) It is a subterfuge designed to pave the way for single-payer insurance — a prime example of that dreaded bugbear, socialism. Yet when Representative Anthony Weiner (D-NY 9th District) made his brilliant “end run” around his GOP confreres by offering the House a bill that would jettison Medicare — single-payer-socialism-in- action-Medicare — the bill was defeated unanimously. Even GOP representatives know that Medicare is extremely popular among retired Americans. (2) A public option is simply too expensive. Where were some of these senators when massive tax cuts were passed for the wealthiest Americans at George Bush’s instigation? How about funding for a trumped-up war in Iraq? Or, closer to home, how do they explain all the costly earmark (pork)legislation that has been passed recently? President Obama has repeatedly “done the math” for those who are listening to him. We cannot afford NOT to have a public option. Each day, as more jobs are lost, so are the health care benefits subsidized by employers. some employers must choose between subsidizing employee health insurance or giving them pay raises. Still others find that they simply cannot afford to pay the rapidly escalating cost of insurance premiums and drop their coverage. Each time someone drops his/her coverage, the cost increases for those still in the system. Where and when does this spiral cease? It is not difficult to imagine the US economy collapsing completely under the burden of health care costs.

    There are also tacit reasons for ditching a public option: Some members of Congress fear constituent backlash although two senators, Nelson of Florida and Carper of Delaware represent states that went for Obama in 2008. One (Lincoln) is up for re-election in 2010 and apparently faces stiff opposition in a very red state; her situation at least is understandable if not admirable. Others (Baucus, Conrad, Carper) may seek a reliable, substantial source of campaign funding. Since these three represent states whose total population is fewer than three million — a relatively paltry base for funding — they may find outside funding much more attractive than contributions from “small donors.” At least one of these, Baucus, is heavily funded by the insurance hegemony — nearly $1.4 million over the past five years. Are those who take substantial funding from corporations putting their own interests ahead of the welfare of their fellow Americans?

    Even a hint of criticizing President Obama pains me, as I worked long and hard for his election — and I’m still in the trenches, doing all I can to encourage Congress to pass the truly meaningful health care reform for which he campaigned. Yet he needs to take a page from FDR’s playbook. Author Jonathan Alter (THE DEFINING MOMENT: FDR’S HUNDRED DAYS AND THE TRIUMPH OF HOPE) describes the First Inaugural Address. At one point, FDR “was acknowledging Congressional authority but putting the legislative branch on notice: Work closely with me or I’ll make you irrelevant.” President Obama needs to send a similar message to Congress, particularly to the Blue Dog Democrats, whose tenure on the Hill is tied closely to his in the White House.

    Posted by Bebe | October 1, 2009, 4:20 am