Memo to Democratic Congressional Reps

You have one chance.  Pass the senate health care bill.

The public does not differentiate between the house bill and the senate bill.

You already voted for the house bill.

Your republican opponent in the fall is going to pin that vote on you incessantly.

And those who support reform are not going to be all that enthusiastic because you did not pass it.

So you have the worst of both worlds:  blame for the vote, and no credit for passage.

The republicans had one goal:  prevent the passage of health care.

They have almost succeeded.

The only bills (of any consequence) that will pass between now and January 2011 (if not later) are bills through reconciliation.  The republicans have zero incentive to cooperate with anything.  Obstruction has served them very well in the polls.

Health care reform cannot be done solely through reconciliation.

Pass the senate bill and then fix what can be fixed through reconciliation.

That is all.

Leadership

Somehow it already feels like ancient history, but the reader perhaps remembers the hubbub surrounding the book Game Change when it was published eight days ago.  Harry Reid was quoted talking about Obama’s lack of a Negro dialect.  Sarah Palin is also depicted negatively in the book.

Reid’s response was to stand up and admit he said what he said.  And he apologized.

Palin’s response was to simply state that the book was full of lies.

One might look at the two responses and draw conclusions about who is leadership material.

On the other hand, both of them responded in the way that their politics required of them.  Politics required Reid to man up and apologize.  Politics requires Palin to just declare the book to be lies.   (Maybe they are lies.  I don’t know).

With 63% of precincts reporting, the Republican Brown is defeating the Democrat Coakley in the Massachusetts senate race 53% to 46%.  It is not looking good.

Now the Democrats are faced with the question of what to do with health care reform.  Are they leaders or are they craven cowards to the political breeze.

TPM alerts us to the early leap by Indiana’s Bayh to cowardice.

The irony is that if the Dems listen to the lesson of Massachusetts and fail to pass health care, they will lose a lot more this fall then they will if they stand tall and pass the bill.  They already voted for it.

If Coakley does indeed lose, it probably means the end of Cap and Trade.   With luck the global warming deniers are correct.

Will we get leadership or politicians?

Ted Kennedy’s Senate Seat

Senator Kennedy has requested that the Massachusetts legislature and governor move to change the law regarding how a vacant Senate seat is filled.  Kennedy’s interest is due to his own serious health issue and the precarious nature of health reform legislation in the US Senate.  Health reform has been one of Kennedy’s top concerns his entire career.

Noam Scheiber over at The New Republic thinks it would be a bad idea for Massachusetts to change the law.

Scheiber thinks that Kennedy’s vacant seat after his death would increase the likelihood that health reform legislation would pass.

it would be suicidal for the GOP to filibuster the culmination of the last Kennedy brother’s lifelong crusade.

I see two problems here.  I’m not convinced it would be suicidal for the GOP to do that (though possibly).  More importantly, I doubt the GOP would see it that way.

Further, I don’t see what difference it would make if Kennedy’s seat was filled by the governor’s appointment or not.  If the GOP did believe it suicidal to “filibuster the culmination of the last Kennedy brother’s lifelong crusade” why would the seat being filled change that calculation?

Scheiber goes on to say:

I suspect the coverage of Kennedy’s death would silence healthcare reform critics and boost proponents in a way that netted at least a couple of wavering moderates–so clearing the 51-vote threshold wouldn’t be a problem. Heck, you might even see Utah Republican (and longtime Kennedy friend) Orrin Hatch back in the reformist camp.

This may very well be true, but again, I don’t see how the governor naming someone to fill the vacant seat disrupts this all that much.  An addition of a couple of moderate votes would be helpful to get to 60.

Finally, Scheiber is assuming that Kennedy is concerned about what will happen after his death.  It could be that Kennedy is prepared to resign the moment Massachusetts makes the appropriate change in the law.  Kennedy might be at the point where he now knows he will never be on the floor of the Senate again, but also knowing his vote (read:  his replacement’s vote) will be needed.

I can see an argument that Massachusetts should not change the law based on the idea that laws should not be altered for political expediency.  The Massachusetts law used to allow the governor to appoint someone to a vacant Senate seat but the legislature changed it when there was a faint hope that Kerry would vacate the seat to become President and the Massachusetts governor at the time was a Republican.  Not that I would be persuaded in this particular case by such an argument, but it is a good one (and should have been heeded the first time around).

Missed Opportunity

Today seems to feature a short video of Congressman Barney Frank responding to a town hall attendee asking about the Nazi policies in the health care reform.

Frank responds to her with a dismissive insult. It is funny. And, yes, I would not argue with the statement that she deserved the response she got. From what I’ve seen around the internet, lots of Democrats are giddy with delight over Frank’s response.

I’ve been watching the “highlights” from various town meetings for a couple of weeks or so. Lots of shouting from people who are against health care reform. Not discussion, but disruption. I understand how frustrating that can get. People yell out stuff based on lies and no opportunity to explain how they are wrong is allowed.

Frank gets the rare case of a citizen asking a belligerent question in a civil manner. She asks the question and then she stops talking. Frank could actually take a minute and explain why her assumptions are incorrect. He could explain how the Nazi comparison makes no sense. But no, he is dismissive and insulting.

To be clear, I seriously doubt that there is anything that Frank could have said to change how the woman feels about the issue. But it is possible that a few people would see the video of the exchange and learn something.

As it is, the video simply justifies the antics that have taken place previously (with more to come, no doubt). Why not shout down the opponent when the opponent is only going to indulge in insults.

It probably makes no difference, but it would be nice if some Democrat actually explained why health care reform is not leading us down the road to a fascist state (and why there was never any plans for death panels that would pull the plug on grandma….and….)

Facts?

It is interesting to me how often people I talk to do not believe in “facts”.  Maybe it is true, maybe it isn’t.  Who’s to say?  That there is no shortage of talking heads out there with no more agenda than ratings and a willingness to just make stuff up (or repeat what someone else made up) certainly contributes to this phenomenon.

But there are facts.  Jonathan Chait has a nice post up over at The New Republic talking about some facts.

One example is it is a fact that in England, the government owns the hospitals and the doctors are government employees.  It is also a fact that this kind of arrangment is not even being considered by Obama and the congress.   More at the link.

Increasingly the right side of the political spectrum seems to be spending its time with hands over the ears chanting “no, no, no, no”.

No, we do not accept evolution.

No, we do not accept man caused climate change.

No, we do not accept that the currant health care system is in crisis.

It would be nice if there could be a discussion of facts instead of rants.

Town Brawls

It is hard to know just how disruptive the protests have been at various town hall meetings that congressmen and women are having around the country.  Some of the video I’ve seen is edited and it isn’t clear whether a town hall meeting was allowed to go on or not.

The video of Texas Congressman Doggett’s town hall seems to be at the end as he is preparing to leave.  The video could easily have been preceded by a productive town hall meeting.

Still, I suspect there have been some town halls that have never gotten off of the ground due to the disruptive protests.   I think you can see more evidence in the video posted at TPMDC.  I don’t know much about Rachel Maddow, and I believe she is guilty of being strongly biased to the liberal side of things, but I do think that some of the video she shows counts as protests that disrupt the town hall.

Is that a bad thing?  It is not as evil as many commenters are making it out to be.  When the congressman needs a police escort to get safely to his car, that may be over the line a bit.  But from what I’ve seen, I’m betting that there have been many such protests in the history of this country from many different sides of the political spectrum.

The tactic of shouting down the other side in a forum designed for discussion is often used by those who have no good argument to make.

Its Nice To Learn That Evrybodys So Concerned About My Health.

Kris Kristofferson sings

Well, they finally came and told me they was a gonna set me free
And Id be leavin town if I knew what was good for me
I said, its nice to learn that evrybodys so concerned about my health.

The Republican’s concern over health care reform reminds me of that song.  To be clear, the Republicans primary goal here is to have nothing done.  One need look no further than the years 2003 through 2007.  In those years the Republicans had majorities in both houses of congress and the presidency.  Did they do anything about health care?  No. It is not like the health care problems that we have just appeared in the last two years.

Any Republican discussion about “doing it right” and “going slow” really just means preventing anything from happening.

Public Option in Health Care Reform

Health reform without a public option is incomplete reform. A public option will increase choice and reduce costs.

Opponents of a public option cite the superiority of a free market over “government” intrusion. The problem is that 94 percent of the country’s insurance markets are defined as “highly concentrated.” A public option would increase competition and create a free market where there is not one currently. Because of this, a public option will play an important role in bringing down costs (even George Will agrees the public option reduces costs).

The public option should not receive any taxpayer subsidy that is not available to private plans.

There needs to be elements in place that prevent private insurance companies from skimming off the healthy and leaving the less healthy for the public plan.

I’ve seen the argument against the public option that it will put private insurance companies out of business. If the public option does not receive any subsidy not available to private insurance plans, then this should not be an issue. In fact, a common theme of conservatives is the efficiency of the private sector and the inefficiency of the government sector, so this shouldn’t be an issue at all.

Which brings us to the argument that the public option will become a huge inefficient government bureaucracy. If it does, then it would be expensive and people would buy coverage from private plans.

I keep hearing that such a plan would put a government bureaucrat between me and my doctor. There’s already an insurance bureaucrat between me and my doctor (and that hasn’t always been so pleasant a situation!).

Finally, there is evidence that people with Medicare and Medicaid are happier with those programs than people with private insurance are with those plans. (Hat tip TPMDC) And there is polling evidence that most Americans want a public option.

The public option is wanted and needed. Write your Congressperson and Senators.