House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has successfully reenergized many among the disillusioned Left, declaring that health care reform is not in fact dead, as some of the more cynical voices among us may have come to fear. At this point, the confusion over what’s going on with HCR has become thoroughly discouraging to many who have spent the last few months (or years) championing the cause. The debate became muddled early on in the midst of GOP outrage and hysteria, and as the process progressed, the Left split along ideological lines. We were having enough trouble when we were largely united, and the growing number of divisions have simply confused the issue further.
And though I personally am fond of the president, I still feel that his lack of leadership on health care has been damaging in the long run, and possibly his largest failing thus far. Mixed and ambiguous messages from the administration about key components of the package like the public option only helped to muddy the debate. The lack of vocal support for progressives in Congress and the eagerness to praise disappointing compromises with conservadems has frustrated the liberal and progressive blogosphere to no end, and understandably so. Some among us, myself included, still believe that the better path to HCR would have been an initial push toward single payer, gradually adjusting and making concessions until we worked our way down to a strong public option, which would then have been seen as the marginal compromise that it really is, rather than the socialist government takeover of health care that the Right likes to pretend it would be.
Then again, hindsight is always 20/20, and if we really wanted a president who would push for single payer to begin with, we should have all voted for Dennis in 2008, now shouldn’t we?
For better or worse and whatever his reasons, President Obama seems to have decided that Congress is going to own HCR. That’s a pretty horrifying reality, considering the mess it has become, and my frustration over the goings on in the Senate has escalated exponentially since the process began. Things were bad enough before voters pitched their little hissy in Massachusetts and elected pretty boy Scott Brown to replace the late great Ted Kennedy. Reform was already being held hostage by blue dogs with ulterior motives, and now we have lost the much-coveted super majority that we briefly enjoyed — the implications for which are… what?
Is it all over? Are we now doomed to failure on HCR and every other item on Obama’s agenda? Is this the end of all our grand hopes?
Hell no. MA voters have done us a considerable favor. Their message to D.C.: Shit or get off the pot.
The Republicans “accomplished” plenty under Bush without a super majority. Why is it that Democrats can’t seem to pull off the same feat? Is it our consistent (and consistently scoffed at) efforts at bipartisanship? Is it our broader coalition? Or is the Left as spineless as Republicans make us out to be?
The people of MA have afforded us an excellent opportunity. In one clear, decisive move, they have both backed us into a corner and freed our formerly tightly bound hands. There is still a route to health care reform, and this time, the likes of Lieberman and Nelson can’t hold it hostage. Neither of them is “60” anymore. Massachusetts has robbed conservadem votes of their potency, and we need to take advantage of the situation and act. And it looks like it will be Speaker Pelosi leading the charge.
Reporting from Washington – Laying out a possible path to approving healthcare legislation, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) said Wednesday that the House should pass the Senate’s version and then use a process known as “budget reconciliation” to make the changes some lawmakers are demanding.
The politically fraught strategy might allow Democrats to salvage a version of the overhaul that senior lawmakers pushed through the House and Senate late last year. Because budget reconciliation requires only a simple majority in the Senate, it could enable Democrats to circumvent a threatened GOP filibuster.
“Majority rule, we call it,” Pelosi told a group of columnists Wednesday.
Plenty of liberals and progressives dissatisfied with the horrific butchering of the health care bill, particularly in the Senate, have already considered reconciliation as a viable path to enact reform. The idea seems to meet resistance primarily from outraged Republicans and from people who get caught up worrying about the politics of the process. But it is not as if this is some bizarre, unheard of tactic. From her press conference Thursday:
“So what I’m saying to you is, Senate bill standalone, I don’t see any chance for it. Reconciliation, resolving some of the issues, then we can pass this thing. There’s a path, there is a path. . .
“. . .whatever the order is, but the whole thing has to be finished, with the reconciliation House and the Senate, before we take up the Senate bill.
“. . .Well they don’t know, but let me talk about that point, because you hear people say, well I don’t like doing majority vote. Well if they’re not going to do majority vote on this, you know, I don’t know how much is going to be accomplished in the Senate, because if reconciliation rules which are established for this purpose – now, recall that many people, Democrats and Republicans all supported – not all of them, but both – supported President Bush five times on his reconciliation bills, President Clinton passed welfare reform, President Reagan COBRA and his tax cuts, President Bush his tax cuts.
“So some good, some not so good, but nonetheless, for the Republicans to be saying, oh my gosh, this is extraordinary and exotic. No, no, no, it’s the regular order for when you’re doing a budget bill or something that has those ramifications. And so I think it’s really important for each of you to be a messenger to the public to say this is the regular order. 60 votes for a Mother’s Day resolution and everything else in between is not the regular order, that’s an obstruction.”
– House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, press conference January 28, 2010 (transcript), emphasis added
Pelosi seems determined, and this could be the defining issue of her career. It is certainly a defining moment in our nation, and Pelosi appears prepared to carry the torch for HCR. She had these words of inspiration for the American people on health care:
Ms. Pelosi added, “We’ll go through the gate. If the gate’s closed, we’ll go over the fence. If the fence is too high, we’ll pole-vault in. If that doesn’t work, we’ll parachute in. But we’re going to get health care reform passed for the American people, for their own personal health and economic security, and for the important role that it will play in reducing the deficit.”
The speaker also praised President Obama’s State of the Union speech and his pledge to focus on jobs, and she said the health care legislation was a part of that agenda. “The health care bill alone would produce 4 million jobs in the life of the bill,” she said.
“We must pass health-care reform,” Ms. Pelosi continued. “The problem is still there. The financial aspects of it, the cost to individuals, to their families, to small businesses, to big businesses, to all businesses, to our deficits, our federal budget, to our economy are huge. We cannot sustain financially the current system – we, as I say, families, businesses or the federal government.”
New York Times, emphasis added
Now those are words of HOPE.
But not just hope. Those are words of action. I am not confident about HCR at this point. I am not comfortable or certain of much of anything in this arena. But with Ted gone and Hillary busy serving as SoS, I can think of no one I’d rather see leading the way on reform than Nancy Pelosi. Through the gate, over the fence, pole vaulting or parachuting, let’s get this done one way or another.
We have this from the NYT:
With Mr. Obama’s health care overhaul stalled on Capitol Hill, Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, said in an interview that Democrats would try to act first on job creation, reducing the deficit and imposing tighter regulation on banks before returning to the health measure, the president’s top priority from last year.
I’ve had just about enough of Rahm Emanuel, and frankly, of President Obama’s ambiguity on the path forward on health care as well. If he wants Congress to deal with this thing, he is going to have to offer at least minimal support. Neither Pelosi nor anybody else can ram this thing through with misdirection, apathy, or opposition coming out of the administration. If Democrats don’t do something about health care before midterms, they are going to be hurting. I think someone needs to put their foot down with the president. Speaker Pelosi?
Here’s how we can help right now — h/t to TomP over at dKos:
Here’s what we can do to make it happen. Call a Democratic Senator and tell them that you want the bill fixed through majority rule (reconciliation) We only need 50 for reconciliation to fix the bill!
The Senate is broken. Tell them you are sick of the obstruction. You want MAJORITY RULE and you know they can do it through reconciliation. No more excuses from the broken Senate.
Contact information for individual Senators. You can also call the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected to your Senator.
[WE NEED TO LIGHT A FIRE UNDER THE SENATORS’ ASSES. NOW!!!!!!
WE ARE NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE! MAJORITY RULE. NOW!!! !!]
1-800 numbers for Capitol switchboard
1 888 436-8427
(h/t to Leema in the comments for these)
Capitol switchboard: (202)224-3121
Akaka, Daniel – (D – HI)
Baucus, Max – (D – MT)
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Bayh, Evan – (D – IN)
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