What’s a Party for? A more-perfect union, or presidential PR? Americans should know the difference

As originally posted in the reader-diary section of Firedoglake.com; the post’s 2009 comment thread is available at that link.

The House Progressive Caucus [link broken, 2/2012; the Washington Post offers only post-2009 Plum Line posts in its website archive] has, very commendably, again made it crystal clear – this time [link broken, 2/2012; the Washington Post offers only post-2009 Plum Line posts in its website archive] directly to a President of their own Party – that their overriding objective for health insurance reform legislation, as federal legislators and representatives of the people, is the well-being of their constituents. In this arena, improving the well-being of all necessarily means favoring the greater public good at the expense of some of the immense profits of privately-owned health insurance and other medical services companies.

Public opinion polls continue to show that a majority of Americans want the choice of a robust public plan and we stand in solidarity with them. We continue to support the robust public option that was reported out of the Committees on Ways and Means and Education and Labor and will not vote for a weakened bill on the House Floor or returning from a Conference with the Senate.

Any bill that does not provide, at a minimum, a public option built on the Medicare provider system and with reimbursement based on Medicare rates-not negotiated rates-is unacceptable. – Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Woolsey & Grijalva, 9/3/09

“Unacceptable,” because ineffective and even counter-productive.

This has been primarily a fight about insurance reform, instead of a fight about fundamentally reforming the health care delivery system of this nation, ever since single-payer reform was ruled out of bounds by the powers-that-be, before the current debate even got underway. Thus, those federal representatives dedicated to the well-being of their constituents, and a more perfect union, have already significantly compromised and moderated their minimum requirements, and lowered their expectations far below a quasi-“perfect” single-payer objective of fundamental health-care reform.

The solid backing of the House Progressive Caucus, with an admirable assist from the Congressional Black Caucus, gives credibility to Speaker Pelosi, when she stands up in principled support of the significantly-compromised insurance-reform objective the House bills already represent:

“Any real change requires the inclusion of a strong public option to promote competition and bring down costs,” Pelosi said. “If a vigorous public option is not included, it would be a major victory for the health insurance industry.”


“A bill without a strong public option will not pass the House,” Pelosi said. “Eliminating the public option would be a major victory for the insurance companies who have rationed care, increased premiums and denied coverage.” – Speaker Pelosi, 9/3/09

It’s decades-past-time that the American people had a genuine “victory” courtesy of their representatives in Congress, never mind the win/loss percentage of the incumbent President, his advisers, the dominant political Parties, or the well-heeled for-profit insurance industry.

That victory is within the grasp, and within the purview, of the Congress alone, absent a presidential veto threat. Thus, as Constitutionally prescribed, and understood and respected by at least some key committee legislators (Max Baucus’s White House-proxy Gang glaringly excepted):

“I know that the White House is debating it internally,” Brown said in an interview with TPMDC. “But Congress is writing the bill, the President’s not.” – Senator Sherrod Brown, 9/3/09

That includes writing a merged bill inside the eventual Legislative Branch conference between the House and Senate as well, Members of Congress, members of the media, and members of the Partisan Punditry.

Speaker Pelosi & Majority Leader Hoyer are publicly and clearly reflecting the majority opinion of the House of Representatives, in no uncertain terms, as they merge three bills into one for final House consideration.

Meanwhile, one Senate committee, the Kennedy/Dodd HELP Committee on which Sherrod Brown sits, has done its work, and considered, in public, hundreds of amendments offered by Senators of both Parties (before the predictable Party-line vote on the final bill), while the other has yet to hold a single public meeting to write reform legislation as a committee.

Yet Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has silently let the latter Senate Finance Committee’s failure to act dictate the schedule of the rest of the Senate, rather than insisting upon a full and fair public amendment process involving every Senator, first in committee, and then on the floor. A democratic process open and equally available to Senators of any and all Parties – followed by a cloture vote to end debate (at which Party Caucus discipline may be justifiably imposed, at the conclusion of sufficient time for floor debate and amendment), leading to an up-or-down simple majority vote on the final product, in advance of a conference with the House.

It is not the job of Congress to make the President look good, particularly when doing so conflicts with its own democratic process and debate, the greater public good, and its Constitutional prerogative to decide the best legislative policy for our nation. Health care reform options were drastically limited, at the outset, based upon the wishes of political campaign contributors to the Parties and the new President. As a result, a public, non-profit insurance option (ideally broadened and sped-up in conference from the limited, delayed versions in the current committee-passed bills) – an insurance option which of necessity directly threatens to curtail future profit margins of the for-profit corporations whose practices have brought us to this pass – is absolutely integral and essential to salvaging genuine reform that will benefit Americans in a way that will be both noticeable and sustainable, even though still far, far from “perfect” or even very good.

The House of Representatives is prepared to deliver genuine reform to the American people, by not recklessly passing an ineffective, counter-productive bill in the name of “winning.” Is the United States Senate prepared to do the same? If so, in the end, this President will apparently not stand in the way of genuine reform, so long as he can take credit for passage of a bill, any bill. Principle holds the stronger hand in a showdown with unprincipled bluffers.

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