Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Dean, "You will have a revolt in the party." about health care reform

One of the leading progressive champions of healthcare reform is pessimistic about the state of the debate in the Senate, saying he sees virtually no path to passing strong legislation and predicting potential congressional losses for Democrats as a consequence.

Former DNC Chair Howard Dean told the Huffington Post on Monday that Senate Democratic leadership was "in deep trouble" on health care, even after Majority Leader Harry Reid cobbled together over the weekend the 60 votes needed to get legislation to the floor. The problem was as much about politics as policy.

"I think if you passed the Senate bill tomorrow it would be OK. But then the problem is they don't have any defense for their members in 2010," Dean said, noting that the public option would not become operational until 2014. "On the other hand, if they drop the public option [to placate moderate members], I think they lose seats."

"So this is really tough. I didn't anticipate being in this position. I thought it would pass. Maybe Harry has some magic up his sleeve. But I don't see how he gets those four votes [Sens. Joseph Lieberman (Conn.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Blanche Lincoln (Ark.) and Ben Nelson (Neb.)] without compromising the bill," Dean concluded.

The former Vermont governor warned that if the party allowed the four moderates to further water down the bill (or defeat it altogether) it could lead to primary challenges or a drop in fundraising from the party's base.

"If you have members refusing to vote for Reid on procedural issues you will have a revolt in the party," Dean said. "What is the point of having a 60-vote margin? This is going to be death for the [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] and the [Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee]. Why would anyone donate to them if they're supporting candidates who defeat the Democratic agenda?"

There was, he insisted, an out clause. Reconciliation -- the budgetary maneuver that would allow portions of reform to be considered by an up or down vote -- "looks better every time," Dean said. "Someone has to say, at some point, we need to pass a bill." Reid has hinted that reconciliation is an increasingly unlikely proposition.

One of the loudest champions of a public plan, Dean has rarely expressed such pessimism about the state of play in the Senate. But even aides on the Hill admit that the path forward to gathering the 60 votes needed to stop a Republican filibuster is immensely challenging.

That said, Dean wasn't ready to read health care reform its final rites. And others who work on the progressive side of the debate said they are more bullish about the prospects of passing strong legislation. Richard Kirsch, national campaign manager for Health Care for America Now, said he noted that progressives in the Senate have been remarkably united in asserting their positions to Reid and indicating "that they won't be rolled by their more conservative members."

"Reconciliation is one of those things that is always there," Kirsch added. "It might not be the topic of conversation now. But it might go that way if four senators decide to wag the tail of the dog."

Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster who has worked with HCAN and others on health care reform, was similarly upbeat. The goal, she said, was to keep the ball moving, pass legislation out of the Senate and then improve on its policy prescriptions once in conference committee with the House.

"The issue is to ensure that something is decent," said Lake. "I think the other thing is we need the president to weigh in, and I suspect he will weigh in very heavily in the conference committee."

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Trading Away The Public Option For Fun And Profit

Amid the drama today regarding the Senate cloture vote (It passed 60-39. Yay, us!), was another, more insidious drama taking place behind the scenes.

A Senate Democratic aide tells me that folks aren't too happy with the news that Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is negotiating a public option "trigger compromise" with members of the caucus.

"He went on his own to talk to Landrieu about the trigger option," the aide says. "That's rather unseemly, especially for Schumer to have reached out to Landrieu before we had the vote. It's very inappropriate."

Obviously there are plenty of reasons for plenty of people to say they're upset about this. But the fact that Schumer began these discussions before today's vote does seem notable, given that Harry Reid was supposed to be negotiating for the votes.

A Schumer spokesperson later denied the Senator was pre-negotiating for a triggered public option.

But then at a press conference held shortly after the vote, Senate Majority Leader had this to say:

Q: Senator Lincoln today made it very clear that she’s not going to support any kind of public option. Senator Lieberman has said the same. What do you see as the chances it will be in the final bill.

Reid: First of all, I support a strong public option. I welcome Senator Schumer, Landrieu and Carper, who Senator Landrieu said are working together to find a public option that is acceptable to all Democrats….

Q: Did you just say that you’ve tasked Senator Schumer, Carper and Landrieu or …

Reid: No. It’s my understanding that Senator Landrieu said today that she’s working with Senator Schumer and Carper to come up with an alternative.

Finally, just a few minutes ago, Schumer's PAC sent this fundraising letter out:

Dear Marta,

Moments ago, the Senate voted to begin its full debate on historic health care reform legislation instead of obstructing it with a filibuster.

Tonight's vote marks the biggest victory to date for our grassroots effort to pass health care reform with a public option. We cannot give enough thanks to the over 100,000 signers of our petition at CitizensForAPublicOption.com for helping to fundamentally shift the momentum towards meaningful reform.

Not long ago, a few loud opponents of reform armed and organized by the insurance industry dominated this debate. Now the American people, the majority of whom support a public option, have spoken out and gained the upper hand.

Not long ago, the public option seemed like little more than a pipe dream. Now it's part of health care bills in both the Senate and the House.

Not long ago, members of our own Democratic caucus weren't sure they could even support an up-or-down vote on health care reform legislation. Tonight they voted to end the Republican filibuster.

But despite this good news, the fight for meaningful health care reform is not over. As we debate amendments to this legislation in the coming weeks, we will work with our colleagues to ensure it continues to address the "Three C's" of meaningful reform: competition, choice, and cost reduction. And we will firmly oppose any effort to eliminate the public option.

Tonight we celebrate a milestone no one thought we could reach just months ago. Tomorrow the fight continues. We will not let up until the President signs a bill we can all be proud of.

Thank you for your support.


Senator Chuck Schumer
Senator Dick Durbin
Senator Patrick Leahy

Trading away the public option for fun and profit. Nice.

"They Need To Come Down Here And Stand In These Lines"

Senator Blanche Lincoln, meet one of your constituents, Steve Maitlan, of Little Rock, Arkansas. Steve's a hardworking American who hasn't been to a doctor in over 5 years. While you threaten to derail health care reform this afternoon on the floor of the Senate, he waits patiently in line at a free health care clinic sponsored by MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann and organized by the National Association of Free Clinics.

He has a message for you and all your fellow Senators on Capitol Hill.

"They Need To Come Down Here And Stand In These Lines. If it takes them two hours or four hours, they need to stand in these lines and talk to the people. If they can live without health care for five months like I have for five years they'd get a little bit better perspective what it's like."

Watch the whole thing.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Big Vote - Tomorrow 8PM EST

Set your clocks, kids, for tomorrow, 8:00 pm EST. After a day-long debate, the Senate will vote wether or not to allow a debate on health care reform to proceed to the floor of the Senate. In layman's terms, this means the Senate is voting wether or not to talk about maybe voting on health care reform......sometime later.

Ah yes, the Senate, moving at the speed of........rocks.

For an idea of what's being debated, check out this handy chart of the Senate bill vs. the House bill, which passed two weeks ago.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Reid To Unveil Senate Health Care Reform Bill Today At 5pm EST

From TPM:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will unveil and discuss his health care bill to Democrats at a special 5 pm caucus meeting tonight, leadership sources say. Reid hopes to brief the caucus before the bill is publicly unveiled, and that could happen late tonight. A CBO analysis of that legislation is expected to be unveiled publicly somewhat earlier in the day, and despite some last minute road bumps, Reid is very pleased with the report.

Reid may give the public 72 hours to review the bill before holding a cloture vote on a motion to proceed this weekend, though he may call for that vote slightly earlier.

Republicans, led by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) are expected to call for the entire bill to be read aloud before debate can begin in earnest after the Senate returns from a week-long Thanksgiving recess at the end of the month.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Where's My Detachable Penis?

Damn. Where'd I put my elective penis? Must be up the attic somewhere. Sigh. Looks like I'll have to dust it off and strap it on if I want any kind of adequate healthcare under the bill just passed in the House and the bills up for consideration in the Senate.

None of the bills emerging from the House and Senate require insurers to cover all the elements of a standard gynecological "well visit," leaving essential care such as pelvic exams, domestic violence screening, counseling about sexually transmitted diseases, and, perhaps most startlingly, the provision of birth control off the list of basic benefits all insurers must cover. Nor are these services protected from "cost sharing," which means that, depending on what's in the bill that emerges from the Senate, and, later, the contents of a final bill, women could wind up having to pay for some of these services out of their own pockets. So far, mammograms and Pap tests are covered in every version of the legislation.
Not really thrilled about this. And since the language is the same in both the Senate and House versions of the bill, it's highly unlikely this will change. Thanks again Planned Parenthood for looking out for my interests on Capitol Hill!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Seat Warming Corporate Shills

Here's a list of Democrats in the House who voted FOR the anti-abortion Stupak amendments and AGAINST the healthcare reform bill.They might as well be Republicans. I hope they're knocked out of office in 2010, even if it brings down our numbers in the house.

Jason Altmire (PA-4) 202-225-2565
Bobby Bright (AL-2) 202-225-2901
John Barrow (GA-12) 202-225-2823
John Boccieri (OH-16) 202-225-3876
Dan Boren (OK-2) 202-225-2701
Ben Chandler (KY-6) 202-225-4706

Travis Childers (MS-1) 202-225-4306
Artur Davis (AL-7) 202-225-2665
Lincoln Davis (TN-4) 202-225-6831
Bart Gordon (TN-6) 202-225-4231
Parker Griffith (AL-5) 202-225-4801
Tim Holden (PA-17) 202-225-5546

Jim Marshall (GA-8) 202-225-6531
Jim Matheson (UT-2) 202-225-3011
Mike McIntyre (NC-7) 202-225-2731
Charlie Melancon (LA-3) 202-225-4031
Collin Peterson (MN-7) 202-225-2165
Mike Ross (AR-4) 202-225-3772

Heath Shuler (NC-11) 202-225-6401
Ike Skelton (MO-4) 202-225-2876
John Tanner (TN-8) 202-225-4714
Gene Taylor (MS-4) 202-225-5772
Harry Teague (NM-2) 202-225-2365

BREAKING! Healthcare Reform Bill Passes! 64 Democrats Side With Republicans To Pass Anti-Choice Amendment

In an historic vote, tonight the House passed the most sweeping health care reform bill since Medicare was enacted. The vote was largely along party lines - 220 to 215. Interestingly enough, a Louisianna Republican, Joseph Cao, voted for the bill as well.

As expected, enough Democrats crossed party lines to also pass a draconian anti-abortion amendment sponsored by Blue Dog Democrat, Bart Stupak. That it passed is no surprise, that 64 Democrats joined with Republicans to forbid private insurance companies from offering abortion coverage is.

Three California Democrats voted for the anti-abortion amendment, Costa (CA-20), Cardoza (CA-18) and Baca (CA-43)

Here is the entire list of Democrats who voted against the healthcare bill. Below that is the list of Dems who voted with Republicans for the anti-abortion amendment.

Adler (NJ)
Davis (AL)
Davis (TN)
Edwards (TX)
Gordon (TN)
Herseth Sandlin
Markey (CO)
Murphy (NY)

Here is the entire list of Democrats who voted in favor of the Stupak amendment.

Altmire, Jason PA-4
Baca, Joe CA-43
Barrow, John GA-12
Berry, Marion AR-1
Bishop, Sanford GA-2
Boccieri, John OH-16
Boren, Dan OK-2
Bright, Bobby AL-2
Cardoza, Dennis CA-18
Carney, Christopher PA-10
Chandler, Ben KY-6
Childers, Travis MS-1
Cooper, Jim TN-5
Costa, Jim CA-20
Costello, Jerry IL-12
Cuellar, Henry TX-28
Dahlkemper, Kathleen PA-3
Davis, Artur AL-7
Davis, Lincoln TN-4
Donnelly, Joe IN-2
Doyle, Mike PA-14
Driehaus, Steve OH-1
Ellsworth, Brad IN-8
Etheridge, Bob NC-2
Gordon, Bart TN-6
Griffith, Parker AL-5
Hill, Baron IN-9
Holden, Tim PA-17
Kanjorski, Paul PA-11
Kaptur, Marcy OH-9
Kildee, Dale MI-5
Langevin, Jim RI-2
Lipinski, Daniel IL-3
Lynch, Stephen MA-9
Marshall, Jim GA-8
Matheson, Jim UT-2
McIntyre, Mike NC-7
Melancon, Charles LA-3
Michaud, Michael ME-2
Mollohan, Alan WV-1
Murtha, John PA-12
Neal, Richard MA-2
Oberstar, James MN-8
Obey, Dave WI-7
Ortiz, Solomon TX-27
Perriello, Thomas VA-5
Peterson, Collin MN-7
Pomeroy, Earl ND-AL
Rahall, Nick WV-3
Reyes, Silvestre TX-16
Rodriguez, Ciro TX-23
Ross, Mike AR-4
Ryan, Timothy OH-17
Salazar, John CO-3
Shuler, Heath NC-11
Skelton, Ike MO-4
Snyder, Vic AR-2
Space, Zack OH-18
Spratt, John SC-5
Stupak, Bart MI-1
Tanner, John TN-8
Taylor, Gene MS-4
Teague, Harry NM-2
Wilson, Charles OH-6

BREAKING! Loretta Sanchez (CA-47) Votes AGAINST bringing House Health Care Bill Up For A Vote

Loretta Sanchez (CA-47) was one of only 10 Democrats to vote against the House "rule" that would allow the final bill to come up for a vote later today. Sanchez's staffers were unable to tell me why the Orange County representative voted no on the rule, and were unable to say how the Congresswoman would vote on the anti-abortion Stupak amendment and the final bill itself. Officially, Sanchez remains undecided on both.

Please call and fax Sanchez's office now and tell her to vote NO on the Stupak amendment and YES on the healthcare bill.

Phone: (202) 225-2965
Fax: (202) 225-5859

Friday, November 6, 2009

Blue Dog Dems Break Out The Coat Hangers

In a stunning betrayal of women's rights, Democratic leadership in the House will allow a vote on an amendment that would ban insurance providers from covering abortion services.

House Democratic leaders agreed Friday night to settle an impasse over abortion by letting the entire House vote on a proposed solution, a risky decision that could determine the fate of their trillion-dollar overhaul of the nation's health care system.

Under the agreement, anti-abortion Democrats will be permitted to offer an amendment on the House floor to the health-care overhaul bill. The amendment would prohibit a new government-run insurance plan created by the health-care bill from offering to cover abortion services, congressional sources said. It would also block people who received federal subsidies for the purchase of health insurance from buying policies that offered coverage for abortions.

The deal clears the way for the dozens of Democratic lawmakers who oppose abortion to lend their support to the health care package, the most dramatic expansion of health coverage in more than 40 years. It also satisfies the demands of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which had threatened to oppose the House bill.

If the amendment from Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) passes, said Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the bishops conference, "we become enthusiastic advocates for moving forward with health care reform."

The amendment is expected to pass with the combined support of more than 40 anti-abortion Democrats and virtually every House Republican. That likelihood meant that leaders of the much larger group of Democrats who support abortion rights were not happy to learn of the deal.

"There will be no abortion, not just with public funds, but with private funds under the public option, and that's not acceptable," said Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.).

I am beyond outraged. Beyond angry. I worked for nearly a year, hosted dozens of phone banks in my home, canvassed and tabled countless weekends, all to support Obama's health care plan, and this is what we get? A return to back alley abortions and coat hangers for all but those lucky few who can foot the bill themselves?


Call your reps and tell them to vote NO on this healthcare bill if the Stupak amendment passes. 1-877-851-6437, 1-800-828-0498, or 1-800-614-2803. Ask for the office you would like to speak to.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Proposition 8 - One Year Later

I could have gone to an Obama election one-year anniversary party tonight. This is how I chose to remember November 4, 2008 instead.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

One Year Ago Today

I have a tiny, 750 square-foot house. But I’ve somehow made room for one of those enormous Obama "Hope" posters. You know the one – you’ve seen it a million times. This one sits framed in my kitchen – on it are the signatures of many of the volunteers I worked with on the Obama campaign last year.

Every day I am reminded of the miracle we pulled off. Every day I’m reminded how, in our congressional district alone (CA-36), 1,500 volunteers made over 600,000 phone calls to swing states all over the country, and sent hundreds of volunteers to Nevada and New Mexico to get out the vote and turn those states blue.

Every day I am reminded that change can only happen when citizens stand together and take ownership over their government, their country, their communities and themselves. Every day I am reminded our work does not end with a campaign, but rather begins with a new President, a new government, and a new day.

Tonight, as I write this, Republicans have taken the governorships of Virginia and New Jersey, yet in NY-23 Democrat Bill Owens beat out "Conservative Party" candidate Doug Hoffman, and Democrat John Garamendi easily defeated Republican David Harmer in CA-10 by running as a staunch progressive in what had previously been considered a "moderate" democratic district.

And in a heartbreaking reminder of Proposition 8 in California, another marriage equality proposition hangs in the balance – this time in Maine.

Every day I am reminded our work does not end with a campaign.

Our President inherited a shit sandwich from one of the most venal and incompetent administrations our country has ever known. It is all he and his administration can do keep our country from sinking into another Great Depression or stumbling into WWIII.

What’s left of the Republican party is becoming the American Taliban right before our eyes while Conservative Democrats threaten to derail health care legislation at every turn.

President Obama won the Nobel Peace prize this year, and we are poised to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan. My brother-in-law will be returning to Iraq for his third tour of duty this month, leaving a wife and three children behind. He joined the Army 15 years ago because when his wife got pregnant with their first son and they couldn’t afford health insurance. They still can’t.

Every day I am reminded our work does not end with a campaign.

I believe in my President. But I don’t expect him to "rescue" us. We entered into an implied contract when we helped get Barack Obama elected. We expected Change, we expected to be respected, empowered and included, we expected him to fight, and we expected to join him in that fight.

That contract, in many ways, has only been partially fulfilled.

As way of example, I take Obama at his word when he says he believes the public option is the best way to reform our health care system. But here’s what I’ve never heard him say:

While the public option may be the best way to bring reform to our health care system, it’s not the easiest or surest road to passing health care reform through congress – in fact it may be the most difficult. I understand this risk and willing to take it, because together I believe we can make this dream a reality.

Instead, I believe the President and his advisers have chosen a different path, one they hoped was less risky, one that would more likely give them a victory that’s eluded every President since Roosevelt. They chose triggers. They chose Olympia Snowe. They have, all along the way, chose to manage expectations for the public option instead of drawing a line in the sand and fighting for it. Not because they’re corrupt, or deceitful or because they don’t believe in efficacy of the public option, but because they don’t believe the system would allow it to happen.

They say politics is the art of the possible.

This is what they believe is possible.

I believe they’ve created a self-fulfilling prophecy, and by doing so, have made the possible finite.

Every day I am reminded our work does not end with a campaign.

If the American people want the president to be more like the Barack Obama they elected, maybe they should start acting more like the voters who elected him, who forcibly and undeniably moved the political establishment to where it didn’t want to go.

So it’s up to us – all of us – to hold our President accountable. To support him when he needs it, but also to hold his feet to the fire when he chooses the merely possible over the audacity of hope.

We have to make sure the path against the public option, against withdrawal from Afghanistan and Iraq, against the climate change bill, against repealing "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell", and against federal marriage equality is more difficult than the path for it.

This is our end of the contract. We have to understand what the issues are, and understand that merely "supporting the President’s agenda" may not be enough.

Every day, when I walk by my kitchen wall and see that poster and see my volunteer’s names scrawled across its face, I am reminded our work does not end with a campaign.

We did not ask permission then and we do not need permission now.

We will be the change we seek and we will move our country towards the possibilities of the infinite.