Jonathan Teller-Elsberg  @  ChelseaGreen

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A guy can dream… (passing health care reform)

Posted on Wednesday, December 16th, 2009 at 12:21 pm by Jonathan Teller-Elsberg

Here's my fantasy—if you have some way of making this into a reality, let me know! So it goes like this: the Senate version of health care reform, stripped of any semblance of a public plan by Joe "Take That, You Pathetic Citizens!" Lieberman, meets up with the House version in conference. They get merged into a single bill that includes a strong public plan, with the new insurance exchange opened up to a larger fraction of the population. It goes to the House and passes. It goes to the Senate where Lieberman joins with the Republicans in filibustering the bill. 100,000 people descend on DC and surround the Capitol building. For five days, they stay put, no matter the weather (like an old friend of mine once told me as we planned a camping trip: "whatever the weather we'll weather the weather, whether we like it or not"), raising up a non-stop chant, day and night, "Pass the bill! Pass the bill!" The filibastards finally knuckle under, end the filibuster, and the Senate passes the bill.

The long duration of the protest is key, since it would prove indisputably that we're dedicated to getting good reform passed into law, and also prove the depth of obstructionism on the part of the filibastards. A victory achieved in this way, where grassroots activism makes the difference, would empower the people going forward and put Congressional obstructionism on the defensive.

Next stops: real reform for Wall Street, and cap-and-dividend (Cantwell/Collins' bill) instead of cap-and-giveaway (Kerry/Lieberman/Graham's bill).

PS: fantasy aside, I'm fully convinced by those like Kevin Drum, Nate Silver, and Ezra Klein that even without the public option, progressives (and everyone else!) ought to swallow their pride and support passage of health care reform as it is finally coming to be. It's galling to be stabbed in the back by Lieberman, but the principle objective is to address the problem of the uninsured. Single payer or, lacking that, a public option among private options are superior ways of addressing the problem than expansion of coverage without those. But a vote against even a third rate bill is a vote to leave 50 million people uninsured, with their ranks growing every year, and no realistic hope to address the problem again for years to come. As Klein has been pointing out the last couple of days, failure to expand health coverage means that something like 150,000 people, quite possibly many more, will die unnecessary premature deaths. Private insurance can be infuriating (and so can public insurance) but the plain fact is that even private insurance helps people avoid avoidable death.

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