a vocal critic of president Obama, I have to give him credit when it's
due. Yesterday, Obama made it clear that he'd drawn a line and reached a
point where he was moving forward with his health care plan, with or
without the Republican party.
This is a decisive, strong
leadership move. It's coming late, but better late than never.
Democrats are seriously talking about using reconciliation, something
which Harry Reid seemed to have taken off the table for far too long.
That's good too. They could do better. When Jim Bunning filibustered
unemployment funding, Harry Reid should have jumped in and used
reconciliation to pass the funding. That would have set a tone, showing
that reconciliation could cut through gridlock and get things done.
has been used close to two dozen times in recent years, more by
Republicans than Democrats. Harry Reid should break that record and show
he has the power and the courage and leadership skills to use it. It
might just salvage his re-election.
Between now and the November
elections, Reid and the senate Democrats should use reconciliation
every chance they get. Let the Mitch McConnell whine about each one
while the Democrats call him a hypocrite and remind the voters how Bush
passed his tax breaks and how COBRA, health care for children, even
medicare were passed using reconciliation.
The truth is, the
recent Republican talking points have not been aimed at the public.
They've been aimed at blue dog Democrats, with the goal of scaring them
into going against the wave the democratic party has stirred up.
Republicans are all saying the same thing-- that the health care bill
will bankrupt the US, that it takes half a trillion dollars from
medicare and that the majority of Americans don't want it.
McConnell says that if, by the odd chance it passes, the health reform
vote will be THE issues that Republicans will use to run against
incumbents. That's a threat to bluedogs.
So here's the deal. The
reform bill is a disappointment to many who want real reform. It fails
to deliver a public option. I've written extensively about just how far
from the "REAL THING" it actually is. But, at this point, if the
Democrats want to hold their advantage in the house and senate, this is
what they need to do. If the do the RIGHT thing, they'll take away
immunity from monopoly laws. They'll include legislation that allows
states to pass single payer legislation, and even better, provide
funding for state feasibility studies.
If they're really smart,
they'll throw in medicare for pregnant mothers and force Republicans to
vote against a life affirming amendment that expands medicare outside of
the senior realm. This will break the ice and set a legislative precedent for expanding medicare.
There are ways to use the current legislation
to soften and even break through elements of resistance to single
payer, ways to start building the foundation to the next round of
legislation. I give Arlen Specter credit for being one of the first to
talk about using reconciliation to pass health care reform-- he did so
at the Pennsylvania progressive summit meeting. If he's smart, he and
his opponent, Joe Sestak, will push for medicare for pregnant mothers as
a way to prevent abortion. That would pull the rug out from under the
Republican candidate, Pat Toomey.
Obama made a good move
yesterday. There is a long list of disappointing decisions he's made
that must still be held against him and his number one, Rahm Emanuel.
The verdict is not yet in on the Obama presidency, not by a long shot.
But at least, when he gets something right, even his detractors on the
left should give him credit. If he shows more strength, more willingness
to be a strong leader, there's incredible possibility for what he can
accomplish. Personally, I think he needs to dump Rahm Emanuel, a tough
guy who has, with his constant conciliation to right wingers, made Obama
appear to be very weak and ineffective.
Obama should dump
Emanuel and start talking to Van Jones, to Bernie Sanders, to Marcy
Kaptur and Alan Grayson. These are people with guts and the courage to
take strong stands.
The Democratic party is showing signs of
life, in the leadership and courage department-- not enough to give
Obama a pass, not by any means. But it's a beginning.