Sep 29, 2009
For weeks now it's seemed more and more evident that instead of
significant, meaningful healthcarereform, we are--if we're
lucky--going to wind up with something akin to health insurance
reform. These reforms will be pretty unassailable (who could oppose
making it illegal for insurance companies to discriminate against
pre-existing conditions, for instance?) but a far cry from what just a
couple months ago seemed not just possible
but probable--reform that included a robust, affordable public
option accessible to all Americans.
Why has the healthcare reform battle disintegrated so rapidly?
Certainly the seemingly endless barrage of right wing lies and downright insanity over the summer didn't help. Neither did the White House's lackadaisical approach
to countering it. But at the end of the day, real reform--the public
option, considered today by the Finance Committee--should have had the
votes it needed to pass. Instead it failed by fifteen votes to eight,
with five Democrats voting against it.
Four out of five major committees have delivered in one form or another
what 65 percent of the American public wants: a government-run public
health insurance option. President Obama supports a public
option, the majority of medical profession does, and without it there is
no way healthcare costs can be brought down in any significant way.
And yet our Democrat-controlled Congress can't get its act together.
Today, five Democratic senators rejected the most
progressive version of the public option to emerge from the Senate
Finance Committee, Sen. Jay Rockefeller's amendment. Remember their
names, because they should go down as traitors to what the Democratic
party should stand for: Blanche Lincoln, Ben Nelson, Max Baucus, Kent
Conrad and Tom Carper.
That's right--we're not talking about thirty to forty Democratic
senators gumming up the works, we're talking about a handful of woefully
out-of-touch, heartless politicians who aren't clever enough to
realize the obvious political upshot of seeing healthcare reform
This group of senators is not only letting their constituents
and the rest of the American people down--they're also setting the stage
for the failure of President Obama's top domestic priority and most
likely a reversal of fortune in the 2010 midterm elections. What adviser
has persuaded them to believe that by slowing down and/or neutering
healthcare they will somehow burnish their reputation and improve their
electoral position? Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus's name is now the
equivalent of a cuss word in most Democratic households and with good
It's times like these that even the most patient progressives find
themselves at loss for why they even bother to back the Democratic
party. It's no longer the lesser of two evils; in this case it's the
equal of the other evil. Certainly the debate is not over and this may
not be the public option's last stand--whatever ultimately emerges from
the Finance Committee will have to reconciled with the other Senate
bills, plus whatever emerges from the House, which Speaker Pelosi has
insisted will include a public
option. But this is a devastating blow to all of us who have been
holding out hope that our elected officials could actually still do
their jobs and make positive change happen for ordinary Americans.
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