Saturday, October 31, 2009

"Trick, Not Treat" For Health Care Reform

From FDL:

As part of the nationwide “Treat, Not Trick” effort yesterday, AMSA medical students Connie Chen and Rebecca Mitchell organized a visit to Anna Eshoo’s office in Palo Alto. Eshoo’s biologics legislation is a huge gift to PhRMA that will keep important new cancer drugs from ever becoming affordable generics. Their passionate advocacy on behalf of their patients is really inspirational. Watch the video — it will make even he hardest cynic smile.

Eshoo’s staff doesn’t want them to film in the office, and responds by handing them a Xerox copy of Eshoo’s talking points.

Eshoo wigged out yesterday in the Hill and the Huffington Post and launches a bitter, personal attack in response to my article on her PhRMA-friendly legislation — and Nancy Pelosi’s daugher helps her promote it. Which is surprising — I said I was “disappointed” in Pelosi because I thought she was just bowing to the will of the caucus, but I guess she’s endorsing Eshoo’s efforts. (I know Christine, she’s very cognizant of how this stuff reads and doesn’t do things like this in a vacuum).

I’ll have a more detailed rebuttal later, but in the mean time, I invite you to read the Pelosi-endorsed Eshoo melt-down and watch the video of these wonderful young students and compare.

As medical student Sha Ali says, the government is already paying money for the research and development of these biologics, so to make the health care system absorb enormous costs for drugs the public already has an interest in is deeply corrupt — and the cost in human life is completely immoral.

Eshoo’s demand for “data exclusivity” (patent monopoly) to protect “innovation” (blockbuster pharmaceutical profits) is wound around such a shameless pack of lies it’s amazing that it only cost drug companies $712,983 in campaign contributions. As the students say, this is a $71 billion boondoggle for PhRMA. They are paying Eshoo pennies on the dollar for the privilege of raking in enormous profits on government-sponsored research.

POP is joining with these wonderful students to help them fight Eshoo and Kay Hagan, women who are willing to impose a huge financial burden on the health care system and cut off access to the newest drugs that could save the lives of breast cancer survivors. These young people shouldn’t have their hands tied by such corrupt, protectionist legislation that puts corporate profits over access to health care for their patients.

Special thanks to our good friend Jim Ehrlich, the Hippy Gourmet, who went to Eshoo’s office with the students and produced the wonderful video.

If you are someone you know are on any of these biologic drugs and are having to foot the bill, or should be taking one but can’t afford to, please let us know.

Friday, October 30, 2009

BREAKING! Gavin Newsom Drops Out of CA Governors Race

In a statement released late Friday afternoon, Gavin Newsom announced that he will no longer be seeking the Democratic nomination for the 2010 California Governor's race

It is with great regret I announce today that I am withdrawing from the race for governor of California. With a young family and responsibilities at city hall, I have found it impossible to commit the time required to complete this effort the way it needs to and should be done.

This is not an easy decision. But it is one made with the best intentions for my wife, my daughter, the residents of the city and county of San Francisco, and California Democrats.

When I embarked on this campaign in April, my goal was to engage thousands and thousands of Californians dedicated to reforming our broken system and bringing change to Sacramento.

I would like to thank those supporters, volunteers, and donors who have worked so hard on my behalf. I have been humbled by their support and am indebted to their efforts. They represent the spirit of change and determination essential to putting California back on the right track.

I will continue to fight for change and the causes and issues for which I care deeply - universal health care, a cleaner environment, and a green economy for our families, better education for our children, and, of course, equal rights under the law for all citizens.

Welcome To Day 4 Of The Public Option Beauty Contest

Jane Hamsher on how the Senate is really just like a badly run beauty pageant. It's going to take me a while to get this image out of my head.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Politics Of The Possible - How The Grassroots Can Co-Opt OFA And Win The Public Option

There's been a lot of hand-wringing lately over health care reform and Obama's support - or lack thereof - of the public option. This former Obama volunteer and current Community Organizer would like to offer her perspective.

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 hundreds of volunteers I worked with on the Obama campaign last year. I am reminded every day of the miracle we pulled off.

I believe in my President. But I don't expect him to "rescue" us. And in a lot of ways, that's what this internal fight over the public option is all about - it is not about policy. It's a proxy for the implied contract we entered into when we helped get 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 has only been partially fulfilled.

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 advisors have chosen a different path, one they hoped was less risky, one that would more likely to give them the 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.

So it's up to us - all of us - to make sure the path against the public option is more difficult that 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.

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.

Sometimes that means working outside the political establishment. Sometimes that means working an inside game. Take Organizing For America, the Obama campaign turned political machine. The New Republic takes an unvarnished look at OFA; It's an article sure to raise the hackles of activists who remain in the OFA fold or have gone on to become OFA staff, but to me it's a spot-on assessment of what the organization is now, how it came to be, and what direction it's likely to take from here.

Before I go on to the article, which I'm reprinting here in full, a few thoughts.

I have always believed, and continue to believe, that OFA can be an effective organization to help advance a progressive agenda, especially if you understand that OFA is a tool, not the whole tool box. I remain convinced that we would not have gotten this far in the health care fight if it had not been for the work of both OFA and outside pressure groups and netroots activists like FireDogLake, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee,, DailyKos, the Courage Campaign and Open Left (to name just a few). The two forces compliment each other by combining the heft of a massive membership base and institutional support that comes with it, with savvy and aggressive advocacy of smaller outside groups which can strategically target specific "pressure points" to leverage their effectiveness.

Last week was a perfect case in point.

  • On Monday, Oct. 19, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee launched an ad campaign targeting Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. They raised nearly $60,000 in just a few days to run ads in his home state of Nevada urging the Senator to use his power as majority leader to bring the public option to the Senate floor for a vote.

  • On Tuesday, Oct. 20th, OFA organized over 340,000 phone calls to Congress to support the "President's agenda" on health care reform. There are reports that 4/5's of the callers specifically mentioned the public option as their preferred choice, even though that language was not included in the OFA call script (it is included in on their website).

  • Then Monday, Oct 26, Harry Reid, who is running for reelection in 2010 and is behind in the polls, did what %77 of his Democratic constituents in Nevada wanted - he announced he would be bring a trigger-free public option to the floor of the Senate for a vote. Reportedly, this was over the objections of the White House, which was still trying to get Olympia Snowe's vote.

So what's the take away from all this? It's simple, and it comes right from the Obama campaign.

You are the change you are waiting for.

I'm reminded of that every time I walk in my kitchen and see that poster and see those names scrawled across its face. We did not ask permission then and we do not need to ask permission now.

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

- Marta Evry
Community Organizer

Tea partiers, townhall protesters, Texas secessionists--for the past few months, grassroots organizing has seemed to be mostly the domain of the right. And for a period this summer, they (okay, not the Texas secessionists, but the others) appeared to be successfully tugging the national debate in their direction. As conservative activists, organized by groups such as FreedomWorks and encouraged by the likes of Glenn Beck, poured into the streets, moderate senators began to waver on health care, President Obama's approval ratings dipped, and momentum for reform seemed to stall.

It wasn't supposed to be this way. The reason was Organizing for America. Last year, after winning the presidency, Obama decided to keep intact the backbone of his stunningly efficient, innovative campaign. Previous presidents had outsourced their activism to interest groups; Obama was going to create his own. OFA was supposed to be a new kind of permanent campaign: a grassroots network wielding some 13 million email addresses to mobilize former volunteers on behalf of the administration's agenda (and keep them engaged for 2012). "We've never had a political leader who has continued their organizing while in office like this at this scale," Tom Matzzie, former Washington director of MoveOn, told NPR in January.

As right-wing protesters dominated the news this summer, it would have seemed the perfect opportunity for Obama's much-touted organizers to drown out the conservatives with some coordinated agitation of their own. But they barely made a ripple. Where were they? And how could such a formidable grassroots operation--having just put Obama in office--fall quiet so quickly?

The morning after the election, some 10,000 organizers dialed into a conference call with President-elect Obama, who told them that they would be needed for fights to come. But within the Obama camp, there was disagreement about how, exactly, their services ought to be used. OFA could become a freestanding organization that would advocate independently for the president's agenda. Or it could be folded--along with its formidable fundraising potential--into the Democratic National Committee. Steve Hildebrand, Obama's deputy campaign manager, favored the independent option: It would allow the group to "pressure anybody who we would need to build a coalition of votes in the House and Senate," he told the Los Angeles Times in mid-November. David Plouffe, the campaign's mastermind, disagreed. He had won the election through a precisely directed field operation combined with iron message discipline, and wasn't about to give it up.

A few days before the inauguration, Obama announced, in effect, that Plouffe's view had prevailed: Organizing for America would be securely housed within the DNC. (Hildebrand returned to his consulting firm in Sioux Falls, and would later become vocally critical of the administration's incremental approach to issues such as gay rights. Plouffe stayed on as an adviser, and his firm raked in $376,000 this year from the DNC.) The bulk of the DNC's new hires have gone to support OFA, which takes up about half the square footage at party headquarters inside a putty brown stucco building south of the Capitol.

It got off to a sluggish start. "Just at the moment when the base would have been most interested in rolling up its sleeves and doing something, they were basically asked to wait, that someone else was going to decide what was going to happen, and, in the meantime, please buy this mug," says Micah Sifry, editor of, which has closely tracked the progress of Obama's online organizing since the 2008 primaries. "They built this very muscular organization and, for three to six months, let it lie relatively fallow."

The group largely sat out the stimulus fight, holding house parties and continuing to fundraise, while gearing up for Obama's signature policy initiative. "I think we all knew that health care would be the big one," Jeremy Bird, the organization's 31-year-old deputy director, told me. But when the health care debate arrived with a fury this summer, OFA ran into problems.

The first was timing: Staff were still filtering into the states in July--and, because the Senate Finance Committee hadn't produced a bill yet, OFA had little concrete to advocate for, even as conservatives found plenty to argue against. The second was tactical: Obama's campaign had never used the kind of in-your-face antics the tea-partiers embraced, focusing instead on story-telling and canvassing. "What you see on the right is an organizing model that's based on grandstanding in front of cameras, in August for example," Bird says. "That's not what we ever did on the campaign. Our organizing was the nitty gritty. I mean it really was the real, hard-core organizing work that we think moves folks and wins elections and changes peoples' lives and is based on person-to-person conversations."

But the biggest problem was built into OFA's very structure--the structure that Plouffe had wanted and Hildebrand had warned against. Obama's people had created something both entirely new and entirely old: an Internet version of the top-down political machines built by Richard Daley in Chicago or Boss Tweed in New York. The difference (other than technology) was that this new machine would rely on ideological loyalty, not patronage. And that was a big difference. The old machines survived as top-down organizations because they gave people on the bottom something tangible in return for their participation. By contrast, successful organizations built mainly on shared philosophy tend to be driven by their memberships. Marshall Ganz, the legendary United Farm Workers organizer-turned-Harvard-professor and godfather of the Obama field strategy--he helped orchestrate Camp Obama, a grassroots training program for staff and volunteers--sees the command-and-control nature of OFA as a crucial flaw. "It's much more an instrument of mobilizing the bottom to serve the top than organizing the bottom to participate in shaping the direction of the top," he told me.

It isn't a coincidence that, historically, effective grassroots movements have usually come out of losing campaigns, not winning ones--circumstances that better lend themselves to a bottom-up approach. Supporters of Adlai Stevenson's failed presidential bids in the 1950s went on to run democratic reform efforts in New York and California. Barry Goldwater's followers went on to reshape conservatism after 1964. During the 2004 primaries, the Howard Dean campaign trained a generation of online organizers, and spawned Democracy for America--now a 1.1 million-strong organization that spends money on campaigns its members choose. "With OFA, that's not the direction of that relationship," says Arshad Hasan, DFA's executive director. "They also have to be responsible to the White House. They can't take quite as many risks. … It's the ability to take risks and be ambitious that's allowed us to grow."

The difference between the two approaches has been on display during the health care debate. Dean's group has been using the public option as a clear rallying cry. OFA--aware that Obama might have to bargain away a strong public option in order to get a health care deal at all--has not pushed the issue nearly as fervently.

Furthermore, being part of the DNC has neutered Organizing for America when it comes to pressuring moderate Democrats. Over objections from the White House, outside groups like the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, MoveOn, and the Health Care for America Now coalition--which is spending $35 million this year--have been running hard-hitting ads that target foot-dragging congressmen. When OFA itself ran ads aimed at key Democratic senators, they were gauzy and positive, mentioning no one by name.OFA didn't have a choice: The White House couldn't deal with Max Baucus in good faith if its ground operation was hammering him in Montana.

Recently, OFA has sharpened its pitch--behind-the-scenes movement building wasn't much use in the here and now. In January, Plouffe had told The New York Times that OFA was "not a ‘call or e-mail your member of Congress' organization." But on October 20, OFA sponsored a massive day of calls to Congress on health care, creating the kind of media buzz the group had failed to generate over the summer.

Still, strategic tinkering aside, the group faces a serious dilemma over the long run: Can a grassroots organization run in the top-down style of a political machine really accomplish much--let alone change the terms of political debate on any given issue? On OFA's website,, I found Brenda King, a travel agent in Cincinnati who's been running a one-woman p.r. shop for health-care reform. She sends people placards to put on their cars and is publicizing a nationwide "honk-and-wave" on October 31. "I'm saying, well, somebody's got to do something on our side," she told me. "And nobody was doing anything." Looking for help, she talked to her state OFA chapter, which voiced support but couldn't provide material assistance without clearance from higher up. "The problem with OFA," she says, "is they have a strict thing that they have to follow."

Health Care Bill Unveiled in the House - The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

From FDL:

Today, Nancy Pelosi unveiled the House’s health care reform bill (you can download the read the whole thing here) The bill will cost $894 billion over the next ten years, but will be fully paid for. It will expand coverage to an additional 36 million Americans and eventually close the Medicare Part D doughnut hole.

Thanks to the successful efforts by the Blue Dog caucus, the bill will not contain the “robust” public option, one that pays Medicare rates plus 5%. The bill will still contain a national public option run by the HHS, but will pay rates negotiated by region instead. This move will increase the cost of the bill by roughly $85 billion.

To make up some of the reduced saving by going with the less robust public option, the bill will expand Medicaid to cover people making below 150% of the federal poverty level (FPL) instead of 133%. It is much cheaper to cover individuals with government insurance programs (Medicare or Medicaid) than through private insurance.

The bill will not contain the excise tax on employer provided health insurance found in the Senate Finance Committee bill. Most of the money to pay for the bill will come from savings from Medicare and Medicaid and a new “millionaire’s tax.” It will be a surtax on individuals making over $500,000 and couples making over a million a year. This should create a real showdown during the conference committee. A large number of House Democrats are strongly against the tax on health insurance benefits while many senators are against the new “millionaire’s tax.”

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Public Option Drama - How Harry Reid Defied the White House

Really interesting story from Talking Points Memo. All the more reason for me to once again thank each and every one of you for pushing so relentlessly for the public option. Your voice matters. Grassroots pressure works.

Today, everyone's officially on the same page. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and his leadership team, and the White House all stand behind the Senate health care bill, which, as we learned this week, includes a public option. But the days leading up to Reid's big Monday announcement were perhaps more trying for leading Democrats than has been publicly acknowledged, or than today's picture of calm would lead you to believe.

Much of the hoopla surrounding Reid's decision centers around a tense Thursday night meeting between President Obama and Senate health care principles--including Reid and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY)--at the White House. But according to sources briefed on White House-Senate health care negotiations, things began boiling over earlier in the week, when a key question was, Who's going to take the blame when the public option doesn't make it in to the base health care bill?

According to a source briefed on White House-Senate health care negotiations, the public option's saving grace was its political popularity with the Democratic base. The source described the back and forth between Senate health care principals and the White House as a "sort of stare down where the two sides were saying, 'you be the face of pulling it out.' Reid wants Obama to do it to give cover to his caucus, Obama wants Reid to do it so he's not the bad guy on the public option, and can still walk away with a win with reform, with bipartisanship, and with a card for everybody running for re-election."

According to a separate source close to both parties, administration officials pushed hard against the idea of Reid backing the measure. "I started the days before [the Thursday meeting], that the White House was trying to fuck with them on this whole thing, and that was very much of a thread throughout the days before."

On the morning of the meeting, anonymous sources--and even some high profile senators--came forward to say that Reid was leaning very heavily toward backing the public option. And that's the news he and other senators brought to the White House that night.

"Reid actually asked Schumer to make the pitch," the first source said. When he did, "Obama was less than responsive and asked questions that suggested he preferred an option that could get the trigger and bipartisan support."

How the meeting ended remains unclear. But what we do know is that, early Friday morning--hours after the parties went their separate ways--Politico's Mike Allen reported that, according to a top administration official, Obama's preference was still for triggers, and he'd let the senators know that.

Multiple sources--including Schumer himself--now dispute this interpretation, saying instead that Obama merely pushed hard to make sure leadership had the politics right. But what's interesting is not so much what Allen's source said, but where Allen's source came from: The White House. Perhaps Obama didn't explicitly oppose Reid's plan. But after the meeting broke that night, somebody wanted to make crystal clear where the White House stood.

There has been plenty of speculation, but it's still unknown who went whispering to Allen. It's also not completely obvious what the ploy was: A final warning shot across Reid's bow? A bid to get ahead of the news stories that both the White House and Senate aides knew were coming?

If the hope was to get Reid into line, though, the leak may have had the opposite effect. That Friday, Senate sources told reporters, including myself, that the White House was pushing back against Reid's decision.

In the ensuing political melee progressive activists and strategists made one final push to get the administration on board--or at least quiet their resistance--and discussions between principals continued through the weekend.

In the end, Reid and Schumer did exactly what they told the White House they wanted to do. The administration (or at least one senior administration official) did not get its way. And yet, during his Monday announcement, Reid insisted that the President stood behind his decision, and all parties have basically pushed the same line ever since. Perhaps that's true. But even if it is, the turbulent road to unanimity can't be forgotten by the players involved. And for all the intrigue and drama behind closed doors, the result of the showdown will likely be remembered, for better or worse, as one of the most pivotal moments in this year's endless tug of war over health care reform.

Monday, October 26, 2009

BREAKING! Senate bill will include a public option

Harry Reid announced just minutes ago that he will be bringing the public option to the floor of the Senate for a vote. Here is what we know from his prepared remarks and from answers at the brief news conference that followed his remarks.

The Senate bill with a public option has been sent to the CBO for scoring today. There had been reports that an alternative version, one with triggers, would be sent as well. Reid said this was not the case.

Reid said that states had until 2014 to opt out of the public option program. Since that program is not set to be up and running until 2013, that would give states a full year to opt out.

However, and this is a BIG however, Reid said that states had until 2014 to opt out. Does that mean states can opt out before 2014, and before the public option starts? If so, this would be a real blow for a robust public option. The devil, as always, is in the details.

Here are Reid's prepared remarks:

The last two weeks have been a great opportunity to work with the White House, Senators Baucus and Dodd, and members of our Caucus on this critical issue of reforming our health insurance system.

We have had productive, meaningful discussions about how to craft the strongest bill that can gain the 60 votes necessary to move forward in the Senate.

I feel good about progress we have made within our caucus and with the White House, and we are all optimistic about reform because of the unprecedented momentum that exists.

I am well aware that the issue of the public option has been a source of great discussion in recent weeks. I have always been a strong supporter of the public option.

While the public option is not a silver bullet, I believe it is an impor ant way to ensure competition and to level the playing field for patients.

As we’ve gone through this process, I’ve concluded, with the support of the White House and Senators Baucus and Dodd, that the best way forward is to include a public option with an opt-out provision for states.

Under this concept, states will be able to determine whether the public option works well for them and will have the ability to opt-out.

I believe that a public option can achieve the goal of bringing meaningful reform to our broken system. It will protect consumers, keep insurers honest and ensure competition and that’s why we intend to include it on the bill that will be submitted to the Senate for consideration.

We have spent countless hours over the last few days in consultation with Senators who have shown a genuine desire to see reform succeed, and I believe there is strong consensus to move forward in this direction.

Today’s developments bring us another step closer to achieving our goal of passing a bill this year that lowers costs, preserves choice, creates competition and improves quality of care.

BREAKING! Reid to unveil Senate Health Care Bill at 3:15 ET today

UPDATE: Details are emerging on the Senate Health Care bill, and it appears that Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu may be the lone Democrat threatening to side with Republicans to filibuster the bill.

Harry Reid's office just put out a statement that he'll be holding a press conference on the merger of Senate health insurance reform proposals at 3:15ET/12:15PT. Various news outlets are reporting that Reid will be sending a bill with a public option and state opt-outs to the CBO for scoring today.

This after a roller-coaster weekend of he said/she said reports claiming Obama was pushing Reid towards the Olympia Snowe trigger and progressive groups pushing back with petitions and ads against it.

Leadership sources tell me that Reid, who spoke with virtually every member of his 60-member caucus this weekend, currently has between 56 and 57 votes for the opt-out, which is being pushed by Sen. Charles Schumer, according to Democratic aides.

A public option with a delayed "trigger" -- supported by the White House and Maine Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe -- has between 58 and 59 backers. It could be floated as an alternative if the opt-out measure fails to obtain the 60 votes needed for cloture, sources said.

Reid worked most of the weekend, convening several meetings with his leadership -- and wrangling over the details with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.

Remember, we only need 51 votes to pass a public option. We need 60 votes to prevent Republicans from blocking the bill from even reaching the Senate floor for a vote.

So who are the holdouts? Well, it would seem Blanche Dubois.......oh sorry, Mary Landrieu, the Senator from Louisiana, may be one.

Now that Senator Harry Reid appears likely to announce today that the final Senate bill will include a public option with an opt-out — a bold gamble that assumes it’ll have the support of 60 Senators in the end — it’s time to figure out which moderate Dem Senators are holding out and refusing to indicate they’ll support it.

Here’s one: Senator Blanche Lincoln. Her spokesperson confirms to me that she is not committing to it.

The key is to ask moderate Dems whether they’re willing to vote Yes on the initial, procedural vote, which requires 60 to bring the legislation to the floor. I asked Lincoln spokesperson Katie Laning Niebaum if Lincoln had indicated to Reid whether she’d vote Yes on cloture.

“Senator Lincoln has not committed her vote to anyone,” Niebaum emailed, adding that “she will have to see the legislative language and cost first and will evaluate it based on its impact on Arkansans.”

Reid has been working the phones for days lining up Senate support, and Senate brinkmanship being what it is, it’s possible that Senators maintaining a noncommital public posture have privately signaled that they’ll be there in the end.

Many in D.C. appear convinced that Reid is a handful of votes away from getting 60. If true, Reid’s apparent decision to go public with his plan could ratchet up the pressure on the holdouts, lest they be cast as the final obstacles to allowing the majority party stage a vote on legislation containing a provision (the public option) supported by the majority of Americans.

We’ll be tracking this today.

Fasten your seat belts kids, it's going to be a bumpy week.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Petition to President Obama: "It's Time To Fight"

From the Progressive Change Campaign:

Multiple media reports say that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is very close to rounding up the votes needed for a public health insurance option, but "the White House is pushing back against the idea" in order to get the support of Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME).

Tell the White House that the support of one Republican isn't worth a bad bill.


"Every day, insurance companies deny care and let people die. Getting one Republican senator's vote is not worth delaying reform -- too many real lives are at stake. We need you to fight and state clearly that anything less than a strong public option is not change we can believe in."

Sign here.

They're also launching a new TV ad today to get our message across to president Obama. You can donate here to put it on the air in Maine.

The Washington Post's Ezra Klein reports:

On Thursday night, Reid went over to the White House for a talk with the president. The conversation centered on Reid's desire to put Schumer's national opt-out plan into the base bill. White House officials were not necessarily pleased, and they made that known. Everyone agrees that they didn't embrace Reid's new strategy. Everyone agrees that the White House wants Snowe on the bill...

The Washington Post confirms that the White House "wants Snowe on the bill" and is seriously considering Snowe's proposed "trigger" -- which would delay, and effectively kill, the public option.

As Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) recently said, "Olympia Snowe was not elected president last year." Even her own constituents in Maine support a public option 2 to 1, and overwhelmingly oppose a trigger! Only the insurance industry supports Snowe's proposal.

We'll deliver this petition to the White House and let the media know about it. The more people who sign by Monday, the more powerful a message we'll send. Please sign today -- together, we can have an impact.

And for all of you awesome people who helped air our ad pressuring Harry Reid, there's a very important P.S.

P.S. This petition comes on the heels of some amazing progress. Days after PCCC members chipped in to air a TV ad asking "if Harry Reid is strong and effective enough a leader to pass a public option into law," Reid is now "furiously working the phones" in support of a public option, according to the Huffington Post.

The New York Times quotes a Reid aide saying, "There is a growing sense that we need to lead on this issue...The idea is that it's better to show some fight." Exactly! Congrats, everyone -- our activism made a difference.

Now it's time to give the same push to President Obama that we gave Senator Reid. Please sign the emergency petition today.

Take 10 minutes for 10 phone calls for health care reform this weekend

It's been another crazy week for health care reform.

On Tuesday, Obama supporters all over the country made over 300,000 phone calls to Congress. It was an amazing effort that proved we've never been more "fired up and ready to go" for health care reform!

Then on Friday, it looked as if we were going to get a strong public option in both the Senate and the House, but by the end of the day, confusing reports emerged on whether either chamber had the votes. There were even reports the White House was pushing the Senate to include a "trigger" in their public option to get a single Republican vote from Olympia Snowe.

So everybody retrenched and apparently we're no closer to getting a strong public option in the bill now than we were a week ago.

But here's the thing: The only reason the public option is still on the table is
because of you. Grassroots pressure works.

All those phone calls, emails, petitions, and media buys by progressive groups work. And it will keep working as long as we keep the pressure up.

Take 10 minutes and make 10 phone calls this weekend. FDL Action PAC has launched an online phone bank effort to call 40,000 of the most progressive Democrats in Nevada, asking them to contact Harry Reid and let him know they support a public option.

Why are we calling Nevada? Because as Senate Majority leader, it is Harry Reid's choice and his alone to include the public option in a final Senate bill. He's the only one who gets to make that decision. And if he decides to kowtow to powerful DC lobbying interests by dropping the public option, then he's the one who will have to shoulder the blame.

Click here to register and start making phone calls.

Nevada Democrats will be asked to call Reid's office to encourage him to include a strong public option in the final Senate bill. The phonebank will also identify Nevada constituents who would support a primary challenge to Reid if he fails to bring the public option to the floor. The data they capture will be a powerful tool in launching a campaign for a better Democratic Senator should Reid fail to listen to Democrats on this issue.

Harry Reid has said he will raise $25 million for his 2010 race. That's over 3 1/2 times the amount he spent in 2004. With a 38% approval rating, It's understandable why he thinks he needs to buy this race. But Reid's unwillingness to enforce caucus discipline means that the 60-vote, filibuster-proof majority that so many Democrats worked so hard for is now meaningless. If he abandons the public option, Nevada residents - and all Democrats - can and should do better.

So take 10 minutes to make 10 phone calls this weekend.

Register now to phone bank to Nevada for the public option.

Friday, October 23, 2009

New Move-On Poll: Should We Refuse To Support Dem Senators Who Block Health Care Reform?

As I reported earlier this morning, major progressive groups are beginning to pressure Obama to take a stronger stand on the public option. just upped the stakes again - they're polling their 3.2 million members on wether or not to withdraw future support from any Democratic Senator who sides with Republicans to block health care reform in the Senate.

Here's the ballot language:

A few conservative Democrats have publicly hinted they might help Republicans block an up-or-down vote on health care reform if it includes a public health insurance option. We could pressure them to do the right thing by publicly announcing that we'll never support anyone who stands with Republicans at this crucial moment, but whether we do is up to MoveOn members.

Should MoveOn refuse to support the re-election of any senator who helps block an up-or-down vote on a health care reform bill with a public option?
In February, 2008, MoveOn polled their membership on wether to support Obama over Clinton in the Democratic primary. Members overwhelmingly voted to endorse Obama and MoveOn threw all it's resources behind his election.

Major Liberal Groups Demand Obama Take Strong Stand On The Public Option

From the Plum Line:

In recent weeks, liberal groups have largely refrained from directly pressuring the White House on the public option — even as there’s been lots of grumbling behind the scenes that Rahm Emanuel is the leading force within the White House trying to trade it away in exchange for compromise.

No longer. A coalition of liberal groups is now openly calling out the White House, demanding it take a “stronger stand” in support of a robust public option — and in an unusual move, the letter is specifically targeting Rahm and demanding he make it happen.

A source sends over a letter signed by several dozen leading liberal groups — including MoveOn, the Campaign for America’s Future, the American Federation of Government Employees, the NAACP, the Progressive Congress Action Fund — that will be sent to the White House today:

Dear Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel:

We, the undersigned alliance for a robust public option, write to request that President Obama heed the will of the people and the organized progressive grassroots and take a strong leadership position in support of a robust public option. The public has spoken and the majority of members of Congress have spoken: Health care reform must include a robust public option…

The House has shown leadership by moving forward health care reform that includes a robust public option. We respectfully ask that the Office of the President take a stronger stand on a robust public option in order to enact true health care reform this year. We request a meeting with you at your earliest opportunity to further discuss this matter

That’s pretty confrontational; it’s questioning Obama’s commitment to the public option and demanding that he show stronger leadership. The decision to call out Rahm is also suggestive, since he is widely seen on the left as the main voice within the White House pushing to trade away core liberal principles for moderate support and calling on liberal groups to refrain from training fire on their own.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

BREAKING! House may not have votes for a robust public option-start calling!

I am receiving new information tonight that the House DOES NOT have 218 "solid' yes votes for health care reform with a Medicare +5% public option.

Further, I am told that if the leadership does not confirm 218 "solid" yes votes by the end of the 9:30 a.m. Democratic caucus meeting tomorrow morning, they will probably include the negotiated rate public option in the bill that is sent to the floor, not the Medicare +5% public option. At the very latest, we have until 2 p.m. to get the votes.

We need another 12-15 solid votes.

Here is a list of House Members leaning yes, undecided and leaning no. If your member of Congress is on the list, call and leave a message tonight. We have to get through before 9:30 a.m ET., if possible.

If your member of Congress is not on the list, but you are represented by a Democrat, call your member of Congress and urge them to support the Medicare +5% option at the caucus meeting tomorrow morning.

The campaign could really go either way depending on what happens in the next 14-18 hours.

Can we make 40,000 phone calls for the public option? YES WE CAN!

Today the FDL Action PAC launches an online phone bank effort to call 40,000 of the most progressive Democrats in Nevada, asking them to contact Harry Reid and let him know they support a public option.

Why are we calling Nevada? Because as Senate Majority leader, it is Harry Reid's choice and his alone to include the public option in a final Senate bill. He's the only one who gets to make that decision. And if he decides to kowtow to powerful DC lobbying interests by dropping the public option, then he's the one who will have to shoulder the blame.

Nevada Democrats will be asked to call Reid's office to encourage him to include the HELP Committee's public option in the final bill without limitation (no triggers, co-ops, "opt-outs" or other weakening measures). The phonebank will also identify Nevada constituents who would support a primary challenge to Reid if he fails to bring the public option to the floor. The data they capture will be a powerful tool in launching a campaign for a better Democratic Senator should Reid fail to listen to Democrats on this issue.

Harry Reid has said he will raise $25 million for his 2010 race. That's over 3 1/2 times the amount he spent in 2004. With a 38% approval rating, It's understandable why he thinks he needs to buy this race. But Reid's unwillingness to enforce caucus discipline means that the 60-vote, filibuster-proof majority that so many Democrats worked so hard for is now meaningless. If he abandons the public option, Nevada residents - and all Democrats - can and should do better.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Obama to supporters, get behind "The bill you least like"

After an amazing day where OFA supporters made over 300,000 phone calls to Capitol Hill in support of health care reform, Obama capped it all off with a wonderful, inspiring speech - and asked us to get behind the "bill you least like".

So I have a question.

The Baucus bill is only one of five bills out there, and the only one without the public option.

A majority in the House of Representatives support a bill with the public option.

A majority in the Senate support a bill with the public option.

A majority of Americans support a bill with the public option.

Tell me again, why we're being asked to get behind the "bill you least like"?

From Talking Points

President Obama tonight pleaded with Democrats to remain unified in the final health care stretch, detailing for his loyal supporters in New York the good things in "the bill you least like."

"There are going to be some disagreements and details to work out ... but I want to say to you Democrats, let's make sure that we keep our eye on the prize," Obama said during a Webcast for the thousands of Organizing for America volunteers who were gathered for call parties across the country.

"Sometimes Democrats can be their own worst enemies, Democrats are an opinionated bunch ... y'all are thinking for yourselves," he said. "I like that in you, but it's time for us to make sure that we finish the job here. We are this close and we've got to be unified."

Obama said "the bill you least like in Congress right now, of the five that are out there," would give 29 million uninsured Americans health care, would ban preexisting conditions and would create an exchange that would encourage competition among ensurers.

His comments were live in front of an audience in a New York ballroom, and streamed out to the parties (where volunteers were proud they made more than 234,000 calls to Congress today). The refrain about "the bill you least like" sounded a bit like presidential foreshadowing since senators are meeting privately to merge the more conservative Senate Finance Committee bill with the more liberal Health, Education, Labor and Pensions version.

(Meanwhile, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is standing firm.)

It was a fascinating speech - Obama is often at his best when in campaign mode, and tonight was no exception. Obama was determined, clear and funny, reprising the "get a mop" line that Democrats have been using to tweak Republicans lately.

Obama also used some of the same lines he employed often on the campaign trail last year, including one he used against Hillary Clinton, now his secretary of state.

"A lot of people said having hope was naive, that our faith in this country was misplaced," he said.

But the "millions of voices calling for change ... proved there isn't anything false about hope," he said. Sound familiar? It's from the Yes We Can speech in New Hampshire on Jan. 8, 2008.

Obama ran down a checklist of all he's accomplished and reminded supporters it's been just nine months since he took over. He said he won't stop fighting, thanks in part to being encouraged by their activism.

"I didn't run for president to accept mediocrity," Obama said.

Obama said he believes in "a strong and loyal opposition" but blasted those who "decide to wait on the sidelines and root for failure."

He blasted the GOP for rooting for him to fizzle out on Olympic push: "I mean who's against the Olympics? What's up with that? That's a sad thing, isn't it? I don't care if you're Democrat or Republican - it's the Olympics! Come on."

He riffed on the "mop" line and then said Republicans should "feel a little shame, help out a little bit. We all have a responsibility to rise to this occasion."

Be patient, Obama asked his supporters, because "I'm just getting started."

"I don't know about you, but I'm not tired," Obama said. "I feel refreshed, I feel energized, and it's because of you. ... 'Yes we can' wasn't just a motto, that's what we're about."

Monday, October 19, 2009

Max Baucus, Pushing The 60 Vote Lie

On a conference call to reporters, Max Baucus continues to push the lie that we need 60 votes to pass a public option. This is the same garbage Harry Reid and the Conserva-Dems in the Senate have been pushing down the media's willing throat for weeks. Repeat after me, WE ONLY NEED 51 VOTES TO PASS A PUBLIC OPTION. However, we do need 60 votes to beat back a Republican filibuster.

Great thing we have a 60-vote supermajority in the Senate, right? Aren't you glad we kept Joe Lieberman around?

On a conference call with reporters moments ago, Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus said that the public option is still alive, adding, in a familiar refrain, that the question for Democrats now is what kind of public option can get 60 votes.

The goal, Baucus said, was to include something in the bill that keeps premiums down and keeps insurance companies honest. "We just need to find ways to help reach that goal, in addition to the provisions in the bill," Baucus said.

Baucus cited several permutations of public option proposals under discussion, including what he described as "Medicare light [the robust public option], even playing field [proposed by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), there's co-ops--that's private, not public--there's opt in, opt out," Baucus said.

"It's alive," Baucus said. "We're trying to see what makes the most sense."

The admission is a fairly candid one for Baucus, who typically demurs at the mention of the public option, and pivots to the idea that the priority for Democrats ought to be a bill that can get 60 votes.

And he did ultimately hit that point, casting doubt on the idea that a health care bill that includes a public option that pays hospitals and doctors at Medicare-like rates, could overcome a filibuster. "I don't know if there's 60 votes for the more pure kind of public option, maybe for the less pure kinds," Baucus said.

But he declined to elaborate on just which compromises might succeed. "It's just It's too early to tell. We met, our group...last, I guess it was Thursday. We're meeting again today....There are a lot of meetings going on, to try to determine the answer to that question," Baucus said. "Maybe none, maybe one of them."

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Obama Not Demanding The Public Option In Senate Negotiations

From the Huffington Post:

President Barack Obama still believes a government-run health care option would best meet his reform goals but is not demanding that it be part of overhaul legislation, White House adviser (Valerie Jarrett) said Sunday.

The White House and lawmakers are trying to blend five House and Senate committee versions of health care legislation into a bill that will pass both houses, where near unanimous Republic opposition was expected.

House Democrats are insisting that there be a public option in competition with the private insurance industry to drive down the cost of coverage. In the Senate, Republicans and some Democrats oppose the measure, meaning inclusion of the public option would foreclose winning the 60 votes needed to advance a bill.

Senior adviser Valerie Jarrett said Obama believes the public plan is still the "best possible choice," but she said he's not demanding it. David Axelrod, Obama's top adviser, said Senate opposition in both parties means "we have to work through these issues."

White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, who is deeply involved with congressional Democrats in trying to merge the various committee proposals, also appeared to set aside the public option.

"It's not the defining piece of health care. It's whether we achieve both cost control, coverage, as well as the choice," Emanuel said.

Obama promoted his health care initiative Saturday in his weekly radio and online address and challenged policy makers to resist special interests. He accused the insurance industry of "filling the airwaves with deceptive and dishonest ads" and paying for studies "designed to mislead the American people."

The bill approved last week by the Senate Finance Committee drew the only Republican vote yet cast with Democrats on the health care overhaul. Even then, Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, did not commit to supporting the final version of the bill.

Labor groups say plans to finance health care reform by taxing insurance companies would end up costing middle-income Americans because the industry would simply pass along the taxes with higher premiums. Emanuel, while not directly disputing that claim, insisted Sunday that the Senate Finance Committee bill "hits the insurance companies and the high expansive and expensive plans."

Jarrett appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press" while Axelrod was on ABC's "This Week." Emanuel spoke on CNN's "State of the Union."

Taxing Union Health Care Plans - Where Are Liberal Institutions? In the Veal Pen.

AFSCME, one of the White House's biggest union supporters, has come out against a proposed tax on so-called "cadillac" health care plans. Such a tax would disproportionately affect middle-class union workers who have traded away other benefits and raises to keep their health care plans intact.

The president of one of America’s largest labor unions, Gerry McEntee, has emerged as a major obstacle to the White House’s efforts to maintain a unified front in the health care debate.

The veteran president of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) has crossed lines that few labor leaders – even those who quietly agree with him – would go near.

McEntee led workers in chanting a barnyard epithet to describe Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus’s health care bill, which would levy a new tax on expensive health care plans. He published an op-ed in U.S.A. Today warning, in terms that could be used against Democrats in the midterms, that the plan could tax the middle class and cost workers their health care. And he blew off a plea from White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and published an open letter promising to “oppose” legislation that contained the tax – published over the objections, several labor officials said, of other union presidents whose names appeared on the letter.....

McEntee’s posture – and the fierce response from a White House determined to keep allies in line – reflects a broader dilemma on the left of the Democratic Party, which is feeling both lingering satisfaction at Obama’s victory and frustration at his caution.

From labor to civil libertarians to anti-war activists, progressive organizers have had to choose between biting their tongues and losing the access and power that comes with friends in the White House. McEntee is among the most prominent leaders who has been willing to challenge the administration.......

“A lot of people have made the political calculus that we don’t want to piss off the White House, so we don’t want to be that overt – but they’re certainly glad that somebody is,” said one prominent labor official. “That’s the great thing about him – you can’t edit the guy – and he likes to do the ‘bull***’ chant whenever he can find an excuse.”
To understand why this story is important, it's important to understand the concept of the "veal pen" and what this means to liberal activism in the Obama administration.

Soon after the election, the Administration began corralling the big liberal DC interest groups into a variety of organizations and communication networks through which they telegraphed their wishes — into a virtual veal pen. The 8:45 am morning call co-hosted by the "liberal" Center for American Progress, Unity 09, and Common Purpose are just a few of the overt ways that the White House controls its left flank and maintains discipline.

My own experience with the Veal Pen came indirectly, when some of them had the temerity to launch a campaign against Blue Dogs. They were rebuked and humiliated in front of their peers as a lesson to them all at a Common Purpose meeting, which is run by lobbyist Erik Smith. White House communications director Ellen Moran attends. It isn’t an arms-length relationship between these groups and the administration.

A few weeks ago, Rahm Emanuel showed up at a Common Purpose meeting and called these liberal groups "fucking stupid" for going after Blue Dogs on health care and ordered them not to do so any more. Since that time, to the best of my knowledge, none of them have.

These organizations may kid themselves that they’re doing no harm, but that’s not true. They are the institutional liberal validators who telegraph to liberals that there are problems, that things are happening that are not good for them. They are trusted to decode the byzantine rituals of government and let the public know when their interests are not being served, that it’s time to pay attention and start making a racket. When they fail to perform that task, the public is left with a vague feeling of anxiety, intuitively understanding that something is wrong but not knowing who or what to blame.......

And so the groups in the DC veal pen stay silent. They leadership gets gets bought off by cocktail parties at the White House while the interests of their members get sold out. How many have openly pushed back against the Administration on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell or DOMA? Well, not many. Most tried to satisfy their LGBT members by outsourcing activism to other organizations, or proving their bona fides by getting involved in the Prop 8 battle that is not directly toxic to the White House. It’s a chickenshit sidestep that betrays their members in the interest of personal gain, which they justify with feeble self-serving palliatives about the importance of "maintaining a seat at the table."

Where are they on health care? Why aren’t they running ads against the AMA, the hospitals, the insurance industry barons who have $700 million in stock options, PhRMA, the device manufacturers and the White House for doing back room deals with all of the above?

Why are they not calling for the White House to release the details of those secret deals?

Because they are participating in those deals, instead of trying to destroy them. Well, that and funneling millions of dollars in pass-throughs to their consultant friends that they are supposed to be spending on the health care fight.

The truth is — they’ve all been sucked into insulating the White House from liberal critique, and protecting the administration’s ability to carry out a neoliberal agenda that does not serve the interests of their members. They spend their time calculating how to do the absolute minimum to retain their progressive street cred and still walk the line of never criticizing the White House.
And so here we are. The GLBT movement co-opted by the Human Rights Campaign. Progressive organizations silent while AIG execs continue to receive millions in bonuses. Middle class union workers forced to shoulder the cost of health care reform while those making over $350,000 a year remain untouched. Grassroots activism co-opted and folded into the DNC in the form of Organizing For America.

What's an activist to do?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

"Gays aren't vampires. They'll show up on camera."

From Andrew Sullivan:

Jon Stewart busts Fox News bad on their non-coverage of a march of around 75,000. This is not just an ideological problem for them; it's a news problem. What happened last weekend in DC was a great story - large and colorful protests, a big fight between the grassroots of the gay movement and its DNC bosses, a presidential speech. Where was Fox? Some will say it's pure ideology. They just ignore stories that do not fit their GOP base audience. The speeches at the march were so emphatic on the core message of equality and the marchers so obviously regular Americans of all stripes, shapes and colors, perhaps Fox simply did not know how to fit the images into the notion that the gay rights movement is some bunch of evil freaks trying to destroy the family. But there's another possibility.

They didn't even know it was going on. When you have no openly gay people on air, when the gay people on staff are unable or unwilling to challenge an editorial line, you slowly seal yourself off from America. If it's true that the MSM were awfully slow and reluctant to cover the Tea Partiers, FNC was woefully blind to this story. If they didn't like Jon Stewart's winning lob over the net last night, they shouldn't set him up so easily.