Saturday, January 23, 2010

Pass. The. Damn. Bill.

Please call your Dem representative. Tell them to pass the Senate's Health Care Bill. Call your Dem Senators and tell them to commit to a reconciliation bill to fix the problems that are preventing the House from voting for their bill. Core message is: Pass. The. Damn. Bill.

Tim F.:
Where We Stand

First, the good news. People who work in DC tell me that teabaggers have been screaming into their phones since Obama took office. They yelled about the stimulus before HCR came up. When HCR passes or dies they will yell about something else. For those of you who worried about it (I didn’t) that means the real added impact of Jane and her firebaggers probably is not very much. Unless the FDL guys use some special identifier I doubt most staffers know that anything new is going on.

The bad news, of course, is that teabaggers are kicking our ass. Whatever their numbers (I would peg it as higher than you think and well below what Glenn Beck thinks) they have leaders who get activists to use the phone. Take that as a recrimination if you want. It simply is. Before January almost nobody called their Reps to support health care, least of all that stinker passed by the Senate. I honestly don’t know how much you can blame Representatives for acting skittish when, at least to the people who answer their phones, the world sounds a lot like a sub-par diary at RedState.

If you belong to any sort of civic group, spend the weekend getting organized. Put together a phone bank and give your Representatives some support. Everyone I have contacted tells me that your calls have an impact.

First-time callers should use the guide here.

  • Tim F.

    From an anonymous friend who works on Capitol Hill.

    We—and by we I mean all Democrats in Congress—need to hear from more supporters. It is clear that the teabaggers have been far more organized than liberals and progressives, but your efforts are reminding us that the American people are on our side and giving us the morale boost we need to get this bill passed. Please keep up the good work.

    You know what to do.

Over the last few days, it's become increasingly evident that congressional Democrats aren't sure how, when, or whether to move forward on health care reform. There is an obvious course that would deliver an extraordinary victory -- the House passes the Senate bill, then approves changes through reconciliation -- but fear is driving reluctance.

Politico reports that there will apparently be some talks this weekend that may save health care reform (and save the Democratic Party, and save the lives of uninsured Americans, and save countless families from bankruptcy).

Struggling to salvage health reform, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have begun considering a list of changes to the Senate bill in hopes of making it acceptable to liberal House members, according to sources familiar with the situation.

The changes could be included in separate legislation that, if passed, would pave the way for House approval of the Senate bill -- a move that would preserve President Barack Obama's vision of a sweeping health reform plan. [...]

The changes are being worked on this weekend with plans for Pelosi to present them to her caucus next week, according to sources familiar with the situation. But, sources stressed, neither Reid nor Pelosi know if this strategy can win the support of their members, but they are attempting it because it is the quickest path to passage.

As recently as last week, in the midst of lengthy discussions at the White House, a wide variety of changes were agreed upon by House and Senate negotiators. The idea, of course, was to craft a final bill to be approved by both chambers. Voters in Massachusetts have since made this approach impossible.

But if Reid and Pelosi can package those already-discussed improvements, and agree to approve them through reconciliation after the House passes the Senate bill, then there's still hope that a fiasco for the ages can be avoided.

The changes being considered track closely with the agreements House and Senate leaders made in White House meetings last week, according to a source. They include the deal with labor unions to ease the tax on high-end insurance plans, additional Medicare cuts and taxes, the elimination of a special Medicaid funding deal for Nebraska and a move to help cover the gap in seniors' prescription drug coverage. Pelosi is also working to change the Senate provision that sets up state insurance exchanges. The House prefers a single, national exchange.

Discussions, a Pelosi spokesperson said, "are ongoing ... but no final decisions have been made."

Once more with feeling: Pass. The. Damn. Bill.

Kurtz (TPM): One Reader's 'Sob-Story'

I don't go much for emotional appeals, but we received an email from TPM Reader MD this week that I haven't been able to shake:

Hey TPM, long time reader -- going back to the Trent Lott-Strom Thurmond days -- first-time writer.

Like everyone I have a sob-story to tell about health care. After telling it to countless liberals who oppose the Senate's health-care reform bill, I still haven't heard a good answer from them about why they can't support the Senate bill. They usually stop talking, or try to change the subject.

Maybe Raul Grijalva or Barney Frank or Anthony Weiner or Jerry Nadler have wrestled with this problem and I haven't seen it. Have you seen anything from them about this?

My story: My father is dying of Huntington's disease. Before he dies in 8 to 10 years, he will need anti-depressants, anti-psychotics and drugs that fight dementia and his tremors and convulsions. He'll need multiple brain scans and physical therapy sessions.

Current medical treatments can't save him, but they will give him a few more years before the slow death strips him of his memories, personality and control of his body.

There's a 50 percent chance the same slow motion death awaits me and each of my three siblings. If I ever lose my job I'll become uninsurable, permanently. My sister already lost her insurance.

That means whatever treatment is developed for Huntington's will be unavailable to us. There's simply no way we could afford it. Not only high tech gene therapies or other interventions, but the medications and treatments that exist now that would buy us enough time to see our kids' graduations or weddings, and would give them hope of not suffering their grandfather's fate.

There's a bill that would mean we'd never be rejected for health insurance or have it canceled. Health insurance that could ease our final years, or maybe even save us.

But liberals are refusing to support it. I know there are principles and politics at stake. I know people are tired of being told to shut up and take what's given to them. But in the end, there a thousands of people with Huntington's and millions of people with other serious or terminal illnesses who will never benefit from treatment because they are uninsured. Millions more who are otherwise healthy will die premature or unnecessary deaths because basic health care isn't affordable.

What do liberal leaders say to them? What do those liberals tell people like my dad, a die-hard activist Democrat, a UAW member who worked his way through college to become a teacher?

I'm used to Republicans and conservatives not giving a damn about people like us, or mocking us for asking questions like this. That's why my father spent so much of his life fighting to keep Democrats in power. But to be abandoned by people my father worked with and supported his entire life? What in the bill is so terrible to justify that?

This isn't about betrayal, or a slap in the face, or an insult. It isn't about strategies to keep seats, or grand theories of justice. Democrats in Congress have the chance to cast a single vote that will make the lives of tens of millions of Americans less wrenching, our demises less brutal. That's what this is about.

I'd like to hear Reps. Grijalva, Frank, Weiner or Nadler tell us why they can't cast that vote.

If you're still with me, thanks for reading and all the hard work you do, and keep fighting the good fight.

Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, is one of the more influential figures in progressive politics, and is one of the nation's leading champions of health care reform. In light of talk that some congressional Dems are considering a weaker, "scaled-down" health care reform bill -- even with a stronger, more effective bill one vote away from passage -- Stern is insisting that this isn't good enough.

SEIU chief Andy Stern took a hard shot at Dem leaders just now for considering a scaled-down health care bill, strongly hinting that labor might not work as hard for Dem candidates in 2010 if they failed to deliver real and comprehensive reform.

"It's gonna be incredibly difficult to stay focused on national politics if by the end of 2010 we have minimal health care and minimal changes on what's important to our members," he said in an interview, ridiculing the emerging Dem approach as "fear masquerading as a strategy."

Stern unloaded on Dem leaders in response to reports today that they're mulling either a scaled down bill to win GOPers or a broken up bill passed in pieces. His anger suggests Dems risk paying a big price with labor if they fail to figure out how to pass the Senate bill and fix it later, as labor wants.

Stern concluded, "For the 31 million people who don't have health care, for the 14,000 who lose it every day, for the 120 people who die every day, they elected this Congress to make change, not to set their sights lower when the going gets tough."

What I find interesting is the sizable group of progressive champions -- allies of the Democratic Party who have no interest in steering Dems in the wrong direction -- who are all urging the House to do the right thing, pass the Senate bill, and make improvements through reconciliation. Leading reform advocates, major union leaders, health care policy experts, and the nation's most influential progressive pundits are all saying the exact same thing, giving Dems the exact same advice.

On the other hand, Republicans and right-wing activist outlets are urging Dems to scrap all the progress they've made, give up, start over, and/or pursue a weaker, ineffective bill (which the GOP would end up opposing anyway).

Why on earth would Dems follow the advice of those who want to destroy them?

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Sully: The SCOTUS Decision

I know readers are befuddled by my relative silence on this. It strikes me as an extreme interpretation of the First Amendment, as extreme as this court's interpretation of the Second Amendment. And I think it will tilt the political balance toward a fusion of government and corporatism - even more than we have already. I'll leave the rest to Fallows here and here.

So we have a government fused with corporations, a legislature run by corporate lobbyists who have just been given a massive financial gift to control the process even more deeply; we have a theory of executive power advanced by one party that gives the president total extra-legal power over any human being he wants to call an "enemy combatant" and total prerogative in launching and waging wars (remember Cheney did not believe Bush needed any congressional support to invade Iraq); we have a Supreme Court that believes in extreme deference to presidential power; we have a Congress of total pussies on the left and maniacs on the right and little in the middle; we have a 24-hour propaganda channel, run by a multinational corporation and managed by a partisan Republican, demonizing the president for anything he does or does not do; we have the open embrace of torture as a routine aspect of US government; and we have one party urging an expansion of the war on Jihadism to encompass a full-scale war against Iran, an act that would embolden the Khamenei junta and ensure that a civilizational war between the nuttiest Christianists in America and the vilest Islamists metastasizes to Def Con 3.

There's a word that characterizes this kind of polity. It's on the tip of my tongue ...

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