What I Did on My Summer Vacation

As I write this, the AP is reporting “Deal with ‘Blue Dogs’ sets up health care vote.”

The gist is that in the House, liberal Democrats and centrist Blue Dog Democrats are close to  a compromise agreement that would provide health insurance to millions, while slowing skyrocketing health costs. At the same time, Democrats and Republicans on the all-important Senate Finance Committee are nearing a bipartisan deal that would extend coverage to 95 percent of Americans without raising federal deficits.

“We’re on the edge, we’re almost there,” said Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, the senior Republican involved in the secretive talks

This is great news, to a point. To reach consensus, Democrats are likely to drop a public insurance option, as well as a provision forcing businesses to offer insurance to their workers — both key components of the Obama plan.

Still, if lawmakers could reach a agreement before the House recess begins Friday — regardless of the shape and scope of the bill — it would be a huge lift for Obama, considering that just days ago, health care seemed DOA.

Now, the bad news. Obama’s poll numbers are slipping, along with his political muscle. A new NY Times poll finds that Obama is losing his clout on health care, just as people’s concerns ratchet up.

Obama’s ability to shape the debate on health care appears to be eroding as opponents aggressively portray his overhaul plan as a government takeover that could limit Americans’ ability to choose their doctors and course of treatment. …

Reflecting a problem that has hindered efforts to bring major changes to health care for decades, Americans expressed considerable unease about what the end result would mean for them individually.

Republicans no doubt sense blood in the water.

“Although some members of a coalition of conservative Democrats announced a breakthrough in negotiations Wednesday,” FoxNews.com reports, “a final deal on the legislation could be a long way off, meaning August could stand as a key month before the potentially dramatic finale in the fall.”

The House will wait until September to bring the bill to the floor — so that members can spend August combing through the massive bill and listening to the concerns of their constituents. 

The month of August now takes on out-sized importance.

Remember, just a few days ago, South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim De Mint declared: “If we’re able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him.”

We are going to see and hear a steady drumbeat of negativity from Republicans, many of whom, like De Mint, are determined to kibosh health care not on the merits, but as a way to undermine Obama on his signature issue, thereby pulling the rug out from under the new administration.

Which is why anybody who cares about Obama’s broader progressive agenda — from passing a cap and trade bill that would stem global warming, to closing Guantanamo Bay and restoring America’s image in the world, to actively working to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians — needs to take action in the next four weeks to support health care.

Call or write your congressmen. Liberal or conservative, they need to hear from constituents who want a bill.  If you don’t know who your congressman is, check out www.healthcareforamericanow.com.  It’s a terrific grassroots organization, supported by Obama, that can help you call your congressman, download print materials to hand out to neighbors and friends, or find a local group to volunteer with. If you’d rather make a small donation, or buy a Health Care For America Now! shirt, you can do that, too.

Write a letter to the editor of your local paper, demanding health care reform. If you do nothing else this August, forward this post to a friend, or send out your own email.

It’s four weeks that will shape the next four years.



4 Responses to “What I Did on My Summer Vacation”

  1. Daniel says:

    Rather than a compromise that seems like it introduces really weak provisions I would rather see a long term plan that specifies small but concrete steps that take effect immediately with a roadmap for next steps. It all doesn’t have to be done now. Let’s solve the problem for the most vulnerable immediately and plan next steps. Then have annual legislation that broadens the program incrementally to achieve the ultimate goal over perhaps 10-20 years.

  2. Neurotic Dem says:

    Daniel —
    In some ways, I like what you propose — it’s another form of compromise, right? But I wouldn’t want them to shoot too low. We are in a rare political moment — still popular Democratic president with large progressive majorities in both houses of Congress, tempered by large numbers of fiscal moderate Dems ushered in in the last election. (Who, for instance, are pushing back on the cost to small businesses — which is a good thing.) We have a president who has been willing to show leadership on the issue. Polls show most people understand we need to do something. We can’t put this off until another election year. Republicans will likely make gains, and Republicans have had little interest or stomach for making health care a priority.
    I think we need bold action now. I don’t think we can wait.

  3. Daniel says:

    Yes, I agree with your strategy but not your tactic (do I have that right? :)). I think setting long term goals like the space shot can be bold and inspirational. Incremental growth toward a better solution is better than rapid implementation of a watered down solution.

  4. Neurotic Dem says:

    Totally agree with that. I’m a pragmatist in the end. If we can get 95 percent of Americans covered, I’d be willing to compromise — maybe even on the public option.
    That’s a big if.

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