Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Healthcare Update

Just a quick update on the healthcare reform battle...

It looks like some of our politicians have been responding to the public demand for real healthcare reform and *gasp* Harry Reid may actually have grown a pair... well, maybe just one, but that's a start.

The HELP Committee recently produced a draft of a healthcare reform bill that included a public option and cost almost half of what a previous bill without a public option did.  That was some real progress, but we have also been waiting for the Finance Committee to produce a bill as well.  Max Baucus, the leading Democrat on that committee, has been a source of many of the rumors of Democratic backpedaling on real reform.  He has been trying to get the support of Chuck Grassley, ranking member on the committee.  This has resulted in a lot of talk about a "trigger" for a public option (essentially kicking the can down the road) and also mention of taxing health benefits, a proposal the president campaigned against.

It was reported yesterday that Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, has decided to start acting according to his title.
According to Democratic sources, Reid told Baucus that taxing health benefits and failing to include a strong government-run insurance option of some sort in his bill would cost 10 to 15 Democratic votes; Reid told Baucus it wasn’t worth securing the support of Grassley and at best a few additional Republicans.
This is good news.  It is the strategy that Bernie Sanders advocated, along with many other supporters for real healthcare reform.  The Democrats have the numbers to pass a strong, substantive reform bill that could benefit the lives of millions of Americans.  They do not need a single Republican vote to do so, and in my opinion which I share with Sanders and many others, they shouldn't try too hard to get those Republican votes if it means sacrificing the quality of the bill.  

This is an historic time in which the public overwhelmingly kicked one party to the curb and said, "here, Democrats, you guys take a shot at this now."  The message was not to join hands with the Republicans and corporate interests and sing "Kumbaya."  No, the message was to deliver change.  Real change.  That means not allowing the people who have been wrong for decades to continue to shape policy.  Our representatives should work together when possible, but on important issues like this, an aura of bipartisanship in exchange for bad watered-down policy is wrong, and would be a slap in the face to the voters.

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