Dem Senators Call For Public Option Through Reconciliation Fix

The letter:

Dear Leader Reid:

We respectfully ask that you bring for a vote before the full Senate a public health insurance option under budget reconciliation rules.

. . . . Although we strongly support the important reforms made by the Senate-passed health reform package, including a strong public option would improve both its substance and the publicís perception of it. The Senate has an obligation to reform our unworkable health insurance market -- both to reduce costs and to give consumers more choices. A strong public option is the best way to deliver on both of these goals, and we urge its consideration under reconciliation rules.


Michael Bennet (D-CO), U.S. Senator
Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), U.S. Senator
Jeff Merkley (D-OR), U.S. Senator
Sherrod Brown (D-OH), U.S. Senator

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    Bennet making a play for progressive vote (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by magster on Tue Feb 16, 2010 at 03:25:11 PM EST
    in CO primary.  Surprised to see his name on the letter.

    Not I... (5.00 / 3) (#7)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Tue Feb 16, 2010 at 03:32:53 PM EST
    ...he's been pretty consistant on his position re: health care.  Even to the point of stating that he will support it even if it costs him his job.  

    One thing for sure--he's winning me over and Andy is not even coming close.  


    This is what we need to hear (or actually see) (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by cal1942 on Tue Feb 16, 2010 at 05:04:12 PM EST
    he will support it even if it costs him his job

    from more pols.

    What it will take to get on track is pols understanding that good public policy will win.

    Of course, I'm assuming he's talking about supporting a STRONG public option.


    Seriously.... (5.00 / 3) (#21)
    by coigue on Tue Feb 16, 2010 at 07:12:05 PM EST
    if this isn't worth their jobs, then why the he11 are they in public service as Democrats?

    Whatever that means... (5.00 / 2) (#25)
    by Anne on Tue Feb 16, 2010 at 08:21:27 PM EST
    because its meaning varies depending on who you talk to.  And as long as it goes undefined - as it has with even these four Senators - what progress are we making?  What are they fighting for?

    The best public option would be Medicare For All, open to everyone who wants to enroll; those who want to stick with private insurance should still have that option.  Maybe that would leave the private companies with the youngest and healthiest - which would be their dream pool, wouldn't it?  But with that Medicare option sitting right there, I'm guessing the cost of private insurance would go way, way down.

    I got a big rate increase for 2010 - I'm now paying $2,100/quarter for my daughter and me; five years ago, it was half that.  Half.  Has my income increased by 50%?  I could only wish for that, but no, it hasn't.  As a matter of fact, my firm did not give raises this year, so I am going backwards, with higher expenses and less income.

    But CareFirst BC/BS wants me to know how terribly bad they feel for having to raise my rates - again.

    That makes such a difference, doesn't it?


    Medicare for all is NOT "public option" (5.00 / 2) (#33)
    by lambert on Wed Feb 17, 2010 at 12:14:48 AM EST
    That's what "for all" means. Not optional.

    Medicare is single payer for over 65s. Period. Unlike [a|the] [strong|robust|triggered]? public [health insurance]? [option|plan], Medicare for all is not the kind of neo-liberal market based solution that Versailles loves. For that reason, Versailles hate it. They also hate single payer because it works, which "public option," exactly because it is only a set of bullet points, cannot be shown to do.


    In the sense that Medicare, in any (none / 0) (#40)
    by Anne on Wed Feb 17, 2010 at 07:33:04 AM EST
    form, and with respect to any age group, is a government-administered program, it is most certainly "public," just as bus and rail and light rail systems are public.  As are libraries.  And schools.

    As for whether it is or should be optional, should the existence of public transportation and public libraries mean that no one could have his or her own vehicle, and you could only borrow, but never buy, any books?  Should the existence of public schools mean that private schools should not be permitted?

    Why should the existence of a nationwide, publicly-administered health plan be any different?  Medicare open to all - all ages, all health conditions, all incomes; maybe automatic enrollment unless and until you establish that you have private insurance, so everyone is part of some pool - of their choosing.

    My mother is on Medicare, but she also has supplemental, private, "Medi-gap" insurance.  Why?  Because Medicare doesn't cover 100%.  She could certainly choose not to have the gap insurance, but the option exists.

    If you are going to insist that with a Medicare for All program, there would be no option to have any form of private insurance, then MFA will need to be something even better than the existing Medicare, that would totally obviate the need for coverage to fill the Medicare gap.  If that's what you're selling - and it sounds like you are - then your description of MFA is just as disingenuous as Howard Dean's description of a/the public option as being equivalent to Medicare.

    When there was discussion of opening up Medicare to ages 55-64, there was never, ever, any suggestion that doing so would be mandatory for people in those age groups, was there?  Because, if there was, I totally missed it.

    Do those countries who have single-payer - in any form - restrict their citizens to one, and only one, form of coverage?  Do the Canadians still have the right - the option, if you will - to have private insurance?  We know the Brits, in their socialized system, have always had the right to buy private coverage.

    Would we be the first country in the industrialized world to force our citizens to have no other choices but a single-payer program?

    I'm sorry that the use of the word "option" sent you over the edge, but it's still a good word; let's not get to the point where we are not permitted to use the word "option," just because it has been associated with this travesty of reforming the US health system.


    Only the "public option" before matters (none / 0) (#45)
    by lambert on Wed Feb 17, 2010 at 03:03:06 PM EST
    Not some ideal public option that's "like" a public library or public transportion. And that so-called "public option" is a FAIL
    The public company Hacker was proposing would have to compete with 1,500 other insurance companies within the multiple-payer jungle. The public company he was proposing would NOT be a single-payer - it would be just one insurance company among hundreds. ....

    The tiny PO the Democrats incorporated into their bills was no Medicare. It would represent no one on the day it opened for business. It would have to do what NO insurance company has done in the last three or four decades, which is to create a new, successful insurance company in every state in the US. In fact, I'm pretty sure no insurance company has expanded into even ONE new market in the last three decades by building a new insurance company from scratch. For the last three decades, insurance companies that wanted to expand their empires have done so by BUYING their way into new markets. That is, they bought an existing insurance company.

    Did I go over the edge? My bad. Marketing slogans like "public option" do that to me.


    I know, and I keep asking (none / 0) (#49)
    by Anne on Wed Feb 17, 2010 at 09:11:52 PM EST
    just what "a" public option is - and no one has an answer; it's just those words that seem to get people all cranked up.  And cranked up they are - read a few dozen comments at an FDL thread and they're right back into it - and there's not even any "there" there.

    Honestly, I could live a long time before I ever heard that phrase again because it has been so corrupted and distorted and just plain used for everything but actually providing an open-to-everyone, government administered program.

    I think we're all over the edge at this stage, myself included.


    Classic tribal mentality (none / 0) (#54)
    by lambert on Thu Feb 18, 2010 at 10:14:10 AM EST
    They're cheering for a slogan coming over the loudspeaker.

    Well done, "progressives!" When are these guys ever going to figure out that adopting the techniques of the right is a guaranteed FAIL? Answer: They won't. They bill for it.


    Answer to public vs. private (none / 0) (#57)
    by lambert on Thu Feb 18, 2010 at 06:57:26 PM EST
    I asked Hipparchia the answer, and this is what she said:

    "Do those countries who have single-payer - in any form - restrict their citizens to one, and only one, form of coverage?  Do the Canadians still have the right - the option, if you will - to have private insurance?  We know the Brits, in their socialized system, have always had the right to buy private coverage."


    [1] the canadians can only buy SUPPLEMENTAL private insurance that covers what the public insurance does not. canadian insurance compnaies are not allowed to sell insurance that DUPLICATES what the public insurance covers. some of the other single payer systems are similar.

    [2] britain is something of a special case, because margaret thatcher tried to privatize their public system, so yes, there is some duplication now between the private and public there. a similar thing happened in australia.

    [3] the rationale for NOT allowing the insurance companies to DUPLICATE what is covered by the public system is that the insurance companies game the system and cover only the healthiest people leaving the taxpayers stuck with paying for the unhealthy people without getting the revenue from the healthy people to help offset costs. the whole point of social insurnace is to have everybody all paying into [and drawing out of] ONE pool of funds.


    That makes complete sense; (none / 0) (#58)
    by Anne on Thu Feb 18, 2010 at 07:07:20 PM EST
    thank you - and hipparchia - for the clarification - it helps a lot!

    I like him (none / 0) (#27)
    by gyrfalcon on Tue Feb 16, 2010 at 09:08:33 PM EST
    He doesn't do the talking head circuit on cable TV, so I've only seen him once on I think Wolf Blitzer's show several months ago with a couple of other new senators/congresscritters, and he impressed the heck out of me.  Very soft-spoken, clearly no publicity hog or grandstander, but when he did speak, he was thoughtful and forceful and really seemed to have his head on straight on the whole health care mess.

    I am SO pleased to see his name on this letter.  I saw a headline somewhere, but didn't manage to read the story, that he basically initiated this.  Do you know if that's true?


    To: gyrfalcon (5.00 / 1) (#31)
    by christinep on Tue Feb 16, 2010 at 09:19:05 PM EST
    There is a Lemos story at MYDD that indicates Senator Bennet did initiate/coordinate the letter. I also find him increasingly impressive...beginning with the reasons that you cite.

    Senator Bennet (5.00 / 2) (#24)
    by christinep on Tue Feb 16, 2010 at 08:06:36 PM EST
    Our Colorado Senator Bennet offers some pleasant surprises. From being taken aback when he was first appointed a year ago, I find that he is coming forth in some areas better than fellow Senator Udall (who seems to have grown quite cautious of late.) Another avenue being pursued by Bennet is an important environmental legislative initiative that would restructure royalties from the still extant 1872 Mining Act--the proposal sponsored by Bennet a few months back would tighten the reins on the extraction industry's almost-freebie use of our land. So, yes, he is clearly making a play for Democratic activists caucus votes next month...and, at this rate, more power to him.

    Do they even define what this (5.00 / 2) (#12)
    by Anne on Tue Feb 16, 2010 at 04:04:52 PM EST
    "strong public option" is?  Is it supposed to be one of however many versions that were in or almost-in the legislation, or considered in committee, and if so, which one is it?

    It's reminding me of that commercial - I can't remember what it's for - with the two little girls sitting at the table, and the nice man in the suit asking one of them if she would like a pony (really, how fitting is this?).  When she says "yes," he hands her a little plastic toy pony.  He asks the other little girl, and she, too, says yes, whereupon he "clucks: and out walks a real, live pony.  The kid who got the toy looks ticked, and she says, "you didn't say I could have a real pony," and the man's rejoinder is, "you didn't ask for one."

    If all you do is ask for a public option via reconciliation, and don't define it, don't be surprised if the "pony" you get is just a little plastic toy.

    It's probably all academic anyway, as I don't for one minute believe it has a snowball's chance in hell of happening.

    Of course they don't define it (5.00 / 1) (#34)
    by lambert on Wed Feb 17, 2010 at 12:16:54 AM EST
    They never have.

    That's how [a|the] [strong|robust|triggered]? public [health insurance]? [option|plan] was able to shrink from 130 million in Hacker's original proposal to 6 million and under when CBO-scored , while still being called ... "public option."


    Exactly What Public Option? (none / 0) (#47)
    by norris morris on Wed Feb 17, 2010 at 07:23:25 PM EST
    Who,what,when?  No one has defined the public option and the degree that defines it, as it has been floating for months without leadership or explanation from The One.

    Everyone reacts everytime a few senators come up with another interpretation?  This means nothing. Without a sufficiently impressive congressional group, and sans the phoney framing and vague
    hints surrounded by bulls**t, it is still a conversation that changes moment to moment.

    Legislation anyone?  It's mentored by the head of the Democratic party....Obama. He declares his preferences, explains it in clear language that can communicae to all, and then he fights for it with all the majority and mandate he came with.

    This hasn't happened, and as yet and I see no breakthrough as we lose our jobs,homes,health,sanity, and even a shred of respect for our government and the dysfunctional congressional whores.


    Lots of notable progressive Senators (5.00 / 3) (#15)
    by oculus on Tue Feb 16, 2010 at 05:01:55 PM EST
    whose names are not on that list.  Why?

    Because they don't want to look like losers (5.00 / 1) (#35)
    by lambert on Wed Feb 17, 2010 at 12:17:59 AM EST
    Could that be it?

    Making failure to purchase junk insurance a federal crime is not going to be full of win in 2010.


    Four more signed on (none / 0) (#42)
    by MO Blue on Wed Feb 17, 2010 at 11:45:33 AM EST
    The new signatures come from four more progressive Senators: Al Franken (MN), Patrick Leahy (VT), John Kerry (MA), and Sheldon Whitehouse (RI). link

    I know I keep asking this, (5.00 / 2) (#43)
    by Anne on Wed Feb 17, 2010 at 12:26:28 PM EST
    and I know I am sounding increasingly testy - which is not directed at you - but, "signed on to what?"  The language of the letter says:
    We respectfully ask that you bring for a vote before the full Senate a public health insurance option under budget reconciliation rules.

    What is "a" public health insurance option?  Shoot, it's not even "the" public insurance option, and even if it was, what is "the" PIO of which they write?

    So, they signed a letter; I am not impressed.  Maybe they want to send out a massive fund-raising letter disguised as "call Senator X and tell him/her what a hero he/she is," like the ones sent by OFA and BoldProgressive and others.

    All I know is that unless and until someone defines what this public option is that these people want as part of a package to be voted on under the reconciliation rules, this is just another meaningless and empty gesture.


    Thanks Anne (none / 0) (#48)
    by norris morris on Wed Feb 17, 2010 at 08:46:57 PM EST
    This posturing from a handful of Democrats is NOT  the way to create a bill of any kind. The lack of strategic planning and leadership from the top is cringe making.

    Politically frantic and disorganized with a dithering President who refuses to use his will to bring Democats to successful legislation. There is a vacuum of leadership and strategy, and I actually thought Obama was addressing the Republicans during his SOTU adddress.

    This is a terrible time to see Democrats in disarray.


    I'm pretty cynical about the whole deal (none / 0) (#59)
    by MO Blue on Sun Feb 21, 2010 at 09:34:38 AM EST
    at this point. IMO what they are doing is using this letter to raise additional campaign funds and support.

    The Dems have raised a whole lot of money from the words "Health CARE Reform" and "Obama's plan" that have even less definition and less accuracy than the public option.



    Nice to see one of my Senators take a stand (5.00 / 2) (#17)
    by Babel 17 on Tue Feb 16, 2010 at 06:04:21 PM EST
    Kirsten Gillibrand, that is. Come on Schumer, it's time to stop being above it all.

    The public option won't be an issue unless it's made to be one.

    Force people to vote for or against it.

    If only the White House and the villagers hadn't portrayed working for it as something only "unserious" people do.

    Well, I contacted him (none / 0) (#18)
    by Babel 17 on Tue Feb 16, 2010 at 06:10:44 PM EST
    She gets a "thank you!" from me (none / 0) (#20)
    by nycstray on Tue Feb 16, 2010 at 07:07:39 PM EST
    Schumer gets a "get off yer duff!"

    She also did something else recently (past week) that I wanted to thank her for, but got sidetracked. Hopefully I'll remember it so I can lend another "thank you!" to her efforts.


    The public option zombie walks again! (5.00 / 1) (#32)
    by lambert on Wed Feb 17, 2010 at 12:10:49 AM EST
    Kip Sullivan has a great post mortem -- which even zombies need! -- at Health Care Now. He starts with Jacob Hacker, the policy entrepreneur who promoted what later would be called [a|the] [strong|robust|triggered]? public [health insurance]? [option|plan]

    But Hacker's confusion (and the confusion of other PO leaders) over whether the PO would be more feasible than a single-payer was MINOR compared to the confusion that set in when congressional Democrats adopted a microscopic version of Hacker's original PO. When the Democrats released their draft legislation in June 2009, it was clear they had stripped out four of the five criteria for the public company that Hacker had specified in his original papers.

    The only criterion the Democrats kept was the one requiring insurance companies to offer the same coverage as the PO. The other four criteria -

    • the one calling for prepopulation of the PO,
    • the one requiring that only the PO get subsidies,
    • the one requiring that the PO be available to all non-elderly Americans, and
    • the one authorizing Medicare's reimbursement rates
    • all four of those criteria were gone. Now it was crystal clear to anyone who understood what Hacker had originally proposed that the PO the Democrats had adopted was so small it wouldn't affect the insurance industry. The Congressional Budget Office said the Senate version of the PO would insure no one; it said the House version would insure 10 million, and then later scaled that back to 6 million.

    Now that the PO had been shriveled down from 129 million people to zero to 6 million, PO advocates faced not only the same old political feasibility problem (the insurance industry and the Republicans continued to scream about the tiny PO as if it were a big PO or a single-payer), but they also faced a huge logistical problem. A PO that represented no one on the day it opened for business wouldn't be able to crack most insurance markets in the US, and might not even be able to survive.
    This is where Hacker's habit of always comparing the PO to Medicare became extremely misleading. When Medicare commenced operations on July 1, 1966, it represented nearly all seniors. With the exception of a few hospitals in the south that temporarily resisted integrating their facilities, all clinics and hospitals in America immediately began accepting Medicare enrollees even though there was no law requiring them to do so. The reason all clinics and hospitals did that is that Medicare represented an enormous constituency on day one and providers didn't want to walk away from so many patients and so much money.

    The tiny PO the Democrats incorporated into their bills was no Medicare. It would represent no one on the day it opened for business. It would have to do what NO insurance company has done in the last three or four decades, which is to create a new, successful insurance company in every state in the US. In fact, I'm pretty sure no insurance company has expanded into even ONE new market in the last three decades by building a new insurance company from scratch. For the last three decades, insurance companies that wanted to expand their empires have done so by BUYING their way into new markets. That is, they bought an existing insurance company.

    But Hacker and other PO advocates blithely ignored this issue. They ignored it because they continued to talk about the Democrats' PO as if it were the same huge PO Hacker had originally proposed. I might add that the CBO totally ignored this issue as well. The CBO never examined the issue of whether the PO would be able to crack even one US market, much less all of them. I think the CBO was being extremely generous to the House version of the PO when they said it would insure 6 million people.

    Nevertheless, as inexplicably rosy as it was, the CBO's reports on the PO sealed its fate. The poor PO was already hated by the right wing and the insurance industry. It was being promoted by people who cared more about an insurance industry bailout than the PO. And now the CBO was revealing the truth about the Democrats' version of the PO - that it was laughably small and for that reason was going to save little or no money.
    When Democrats throughout Congress, especially those in swing districts, asked themselves why they should vote for something as controversial as a PO when the darn thing wouldn't save any money, PO advocates had no answers.

    Ludicrously, the letter advocates a "strong" public option, which the proponents of this zombie policy have never been able to define. Nor have they been able to define how many people will actually be enrolled, how the public option will penetrate the existing markets (see above). The letter is pure posturing, and not good policy, and therefore not even good politics.

    They better tap dance faster (none / 0) (#1)
    by jbindc on Tue Feb 16, 2010 at 03:10:29 PM EST
    Labor unions are cooling to the deal they made with the WH on a tax on high-cost insurance plans.

    But labor leaders have grown wary that the Obama administration and Congress are scaling back their ambitions for healthcare reform despite the president's insistence that he has not. Losing union support for the healthcare effort would be a damaging blow. Organized labor has been one of the staunchest proponents of finishing the job on healthcare reform.

    "It appears that the administration and Congress will be taking a much more modest approach to healthcare reform. The cost and value of such reform would not justify using an excise tax," Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America, told The New York Times. The communications union has been among the most vocal labor organization in its opposition to the tax.

    Fred Astaire Is Not In The WHouse (none / 0) (#50)
    by norris morris on Wed Feb 17, 2010 at 10:12:59 PM EST
    Tapping as fast they he can?  Never. This is the Bush administration over again except with a soft spoken intelligent man who is just not doing everything evil. Just ordinary political behavior in full fundraising mode.

    But our totally conventional President whose promises he's forgotten has shown us that he lacks verve and imagination. This is the beginning of the Audacity of Fundraising by the POTUS and the US congress.

    They have brazenly allowed us to see them voting for the drug and insurance lobbyists that pay for their campaigns. Pretending to be Democrats isn't working anymore. The pigs in congress are only concerned about running for office, and Democracy eludes them. Re-election$$$$ is all they care about.

    Obama has surrounded himself with the same old unimaginative,conventional status quo politicians who only concern themselves about re-election.
    And not rocking any boats.

    The flair of Astaire is certainly missing from the audacity we had been promised.

    This failure of leadership, style and substance is  responsible for the massive missed opportunities and the lost risks needed for visionary change.


    what they said.... (none / 0) (#2)
    by CST on Tue Feb 16, 2010 at 03:14:32 PM EST
    If you gotta do reconcilliation anyway, might as well go all out.

    No, Gang of PO Reconcilers, what we need is single (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by jawbone on Tue Feb 16, 2010 at 07:03:28 PM EST

    Medicare for All...with a robust private option.

    The wimpy public option of offer, and badly defined at that, will not result in good results for cost reductions or health outcomes.

    Oh, why are we lumbered with this Corporatist president!!!


    Idolatry is Dangerous (none / 0) (#51)
    by norris morris on Wed Feb 17, 2010 at 10:32:21 PM EST
    is why.

    We have not even now.....learned to demand and converge together as a force to insist on change, People can change governments even as corrupt and useless as ours at present.

    We still expect a hero to swashbuckle into DC, and like Superman...Presto!

    We have the power as someone once said, and we must learn to use it. Our government and our congress are dysfunctional and will only change if we visibly react and demand change...or no vote, no money.

    We are now observing in disbelief what the results are from the celebrity mentality that whips up enthusian for Idols who speak with silver tongues and result in conventional and unimaginatave same old same olds at a moment in history when this is far from good enough.

    We must do better if we are to survive these times as a Democracy possessed of any credibility.


    Well, that's obviously not going to happen (none / 0) (#3)
    by andgarden on Tue Feb 16, 2010 at 03:22:55 PM EST
    but it does have the potential to move the discussion in the right direction (i.e., what will be in the [now guaranteed] reconciliation bill).

    I chose not to comment (none / 0) (#6)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Feb 16, 2010 at 03:27:43 PM EST
    on it in the post because that's what I think.

    Better to lay it out there without editorializing.


    The need to define the "center" (none / 0) (#8)
    by andgarden on Tue Feb 16, 2010 at 03:36:08 PM EST
    is one of the better political lessons I've learned from you.

    I agree (none / 0) (#9)
    by MO Blue on Tue Feb 16, 2010 at 03:37:50 PM EST
    that it is not going to happen. It is unfortunate since there could not be a better time after BC/BS announced that they were raising rates by 39 to further promote the idea to the American people.

    Don't worry, the Ins. companies (5.00 / 2) (#10)
    by andgarden on Tue Feb 16, 2010 at 03:39:43 PM EST
    will have to "justify" their rates to state agencies!

    Perfect response -- (5.00 / 4) (#14)
    by Cream City on Tue Feb 16, 2010 at 04:53:32 PM EST
    you could write their news release.  Just a few buzzwords -- caring concern for the public blah blah -- and it's a send and print.

    Sure would be nice to get a head count (none / 0) (#4)
    by ruffian on Tue Feb 16, 2010 at 03:24:33 PM EST
    on that one issue.

    WTF . . . (none / 0) (#11)
    by allys gift on Tue Feb 16, 2010 at 04:03:04 PM EST
    "Although we strongly support the important reforms made by the Senate-passed health reform package. . ."

    You never use this sentence construction if you actually want to get anywhere with the second part of the sentence.


    I see 2 of the 4 are 2 of the 5 ... (none / 0) (#13)
    by RonK Seattle on Tue Feb 16, 2010 at 04:10:18 PM EST
    ... poster children in Politico.com's lead today: Five ways to lose the Senate majority.

    Nice to see Jeff Merkely stepping up (none / 0) (#22)
    by caseyOR on Tue Feb 16, 2010 at 07:19:11 PM EST
    When Jeff was elected I was kind of worried that he might opt to follow Ron Wyden's lead on health reform. Thankfully, Jeff is proving to be his own person. His position is much closer to the one I think is best than Wyden's.

    Jeff may turn out to be a liberal after all.

    Single payer (5.00 / 1) (#23)
    by caseyOR on Tue Feb 16, 2010 at 07:21:48 PM EST
    is, of course, my preferred reform. And, while Merkely said he would vote for single-payer if a bill made it to the floor, he hasn't exactly jumped on the bandwagon. Still , he is more to my liking than Wyden has ever been, and a d@mn sight better than Gordon Smith was.

    Reconciliation (none / 0) (#26)
    by SomewhatChunky on Tue Feb 16, 2010 at 08:42:16 PM EST
    This may not be a popular view here with the Dems currently in power, but I believe in the filibuster.  I think it prevents narrow partisan majorities from passing major legislation that that lacks strong consensus and popular support.  I also think it is important  that there be some sort of consensus in the country to pass major legislation.  My views on this are not at all tied to the current political situation or the health care bill.

    Our system of government has worked for a long time.  While I am aware that recent use of the filibuster has increased dramatically, once you open Pandora's box you can never close it.  Reconciliation will become the way to do things forever.  I know there are rules about when it can be used, but I'm sure the powers that be will figure ways around those.  It will change the way the senate works forever and I'm not sure that is a good thing. If the rules are going to be changed, that should be debated on its own merits.

    I also think there will be tremendous blowback on the Dems if we  pass health care through the use of the reconciliation process which was never intended to pass major legislation.  The Repubs will paint it as a abuse of power and they will have a point.

    Good times never last forever.  Sooner or later Republicans will be back in power.  It may be November if health care is rammed through via reconciliation.

    The Republicans will (5.00 / 1) (#29)
    by gyrfalcon on Tue Feb 16, 2010 at 09:14:04 PM EST
    paint whatever the Dems do as an "abuse of power."  You're just like the Senate Dems, cowering for fear of "what will the Republicans say?"  That way lies the same endless defeats and watered-down nothingness we've been getting out of the Dems. for many a year now.

    The public responds very well to strong exercise of power, especially if something they really like-- like the public option-- results from it.

    Stop worrying about what the Republicans are going to do.  


    The endlessly repeated talking point... (none / 0) (#36)
    by lambert on Wed Feb 17, 2010 at 12:24:38 AM EST
    .... on how polling shows the public supports [a|the] [strong|robust|triggered] public [health insurance]? [option|plan] has two problems:

    1. The so-called public option advocates set out to confuse their policy with Medicare in the public mind, and succeeded, and

    2. The so-called public option has been so vague, flimsy, and ever-changing in its proposed implementation -- 130 million enrollees down to 6! -- that there's really nothing meaningful to support, so the polls are meaningless. It's as if the public were asked whether they support cute kittens, which of course they would.

    Except (none / 0) (#41)
    by jbindc on Wed Feb 17, 2010 at 10:01:29 AM EST
    as every recent poll I can think of shows, the public is turing against the Senate bill and HCR in its present form, in general.  Americans want them to start over.

    At this point, I don't think it's just the Republicans that the Dems are afraid of - they are afraid of the blowback at the ballot box.


    Interesting comment, but... (none / 0) (#28)
    by christinep on Tue Feb 16, 2010 at 09:13:41 PM EST
    the use of reconciliation is certainly not new. For example, as pointed out in today's letter by Senator Bennet et al, the reconciliation approach has been used on it least 3 occasions relating to health care in the past generation (1985 COBRA, children's health care programs, and the Medicare Advantage provisions.) So, it would not be opening a Pandora's Box...more likely, it would be following a pattern set under previous Presidents. If voters later decide that it was the wrong way to go, they will go to the ballot box. Seriously, it may be that the far greater issue in the eyes of the public, at this point, is gridlock & inaction as opposed to an action that brings change.  <Your comments about the two-pronged issue of filibuster deserve separate commentary. I agree that it is both two-pronged and two-edged.>

    I'm for gridlock if "change" is worse (5.00 / 2) (#37)
    by lambert on Wed Feb 17, 2010 at 12:25:46 AM EST
    For me, being forced to buy junk insurance is worse than having no insurance.

    Define "junk" (5.00 / 1) (#44)
    by christinep on Wed Feb 17, 2010 at 02:59:57 PM EST
    Really...almost any plan that has been offered advances incrementally the cause of healthcare. You might not agree, but a lot of how one defines success or failure depends upon the measuring devices we use. For example: in healthcare, many of us consider advances in changing insurance practices such as the hatchet pre-existing conditions disqualifier or the arbitrary recission usage; advances in expanding coverage to millions more people; maintaining cost control via CBO-certified revenue neutral procedure; and, movement toward the mandate needed to enlarge the pool to make the ultimate delivery possible--many of us, indeed, believe that these are justifiable advances that would be realized even without more (and, of course, there should be more.)  Now...as for "junk": Long ago I tended to think that if I did not get all or most of what I wanted/believed in that it was everybody else's fault, the system stunk, etc. I've evolved. And, when I see or hear cute, dismissive phrases such as your comment about "junk insurance" without more than conclusionary feelings, I regard it as sloganeering. What I'd really like to hear is what--very specifically--you would like to see; where you would compromise; what strategy you would use, and--most important--the whys and wherefores. Thats fair, isn't it?

    Single payer, of course (none / 0) (#52)
    by lambert on Thu Feb 18, 2010 at 12:14:58 AM EST
    It's the only proposal on offer that's been shown by evidence to save both lives and money. I suggest you check out http://www.pnhp.org or http://www.healthcare-now.org/ or any of the other local single payer movement sites.

    As for "junk insurance," yeah, it's a slogan (though I would prefer "shorthand"). I had a role in propagating it, and people believed it when they looked at what was on offer from the Dems: An insurance company bailout that forced them to buy insurance from the same companies who already gamed the system.


    That's a very interesting group (none / 0) (#30)
    by gyrfalcon on Tue Feb 16, 2010 at 09:16:22 PM EST
    Not a wild-eyed lefty DFH in the bunch.  I suspect this might be just an opening shot with some planning behind it.  In any case, very nice to see.

    If Congress wants to help the majority of (none / 0) (#46)
    by MyLeftMind on Wed Feb 17, 2010 at 05:19:58 PM EST
    Americans, the solution would be to offer fee-based Medicare. In other words, use that currently existing single payer system as a way to consolidate our resources to get health care at a reasonable price.

    Seniors and the disabled already pay monthly fees for Medicare, as well as medicine costs. Congress should simply open up Medicare to citizens (not to all residents, as the healthcare welfare bill HR676 would) at a fee that is less than what companies and individuals currently pay to insurance companies. It wouldn't be socialized medicine, because anyone can still pay rip-off insurance companies instead of buying Medicare, and it's not available to non-citizens, so it won't become the next new welfare program to attract non-citizens to come here illegally. Hence, no angry backlash from Independents and conservatives, many of whom would be happy to save 30% on their healthcare costs.

    Medicaid would still pick up some of the slack for the poor. But the purpose of offering Medicare would not be to create socialized medicine or solve all of society's ills, but simply to allow working Americans and our companies to obtain healthcare without paying for the obscene CEO salaries and investor's profits.

    What's wrong with socialized medicine? (none / 0) (#53)
    by lambert on Thu Feb 18, 2010 at 12:17:03 AM EST
    In the UK, it delivers comparable outcomes to our system at less than half the cost. Granted, socialized medicine is the left solution -- single payer being the centrist solution -- but we should really stop playing 11 dimensional chess about what will pass, and go for the best policy solution. Leave the chess to the politicians who get paid for it.

    Not that there's anything wrong with that... (none / 0) (#55)
    by MyLeftMind on Thu Feb 18, 2010 at 11:57:30 AM EST
    Socialized medicine might be a good idea, but it's not necessarily the solution to the healthcare crisis we're experiencing. We need to start by fixing the root of the problem, which is the insurance industry's for-obscene-profit model and their ownership of our elected members of Congress. Expanding Medicare (at cost), means providing real health care, not just propping up the destructive and greedy insurance industry. Furthermore, since it's not a giveaway, we'll actually see real savings for companies and the middle class, which will stimulate the economy. Once it's in place, the left can push to expand Medicaid, the free and low cost healthcare for the poor.

    Combining these two goals (relieving the middle class of the current industry-caused crisis, and helping the poor) is an albatross for Democrats because this new billion dollar giveaway to the poor and to non-citizens will result in a huge political backlash. Forcing the middle class to pay for this new welfare program (no, Mr. President, the rich will not be paying for this boondoggle) will send our economy into it's final spin, and put the last nail in the Democrat's coffin.


    Nobody could have predicted ... (5.00 / 1) (#56)
    by lambert on Thu Feb 18, 2010 at 12:17:49 PM EST
    ... that making failure to buy junk insurance a federal crime, and then funding the subsidies for buying it by taxing the insurance plans of people who already have insurance wouldn't be a surefire political winner.