03/10/10 St. Louis was once again the accidental center of the political universe for corporatist democrats, including our own Senator Claire McCaskill, as President Obama headlined a fundraiser for democratic party favorites, the good senator being the primary beneficiary of his political largesse. Staged at the Renaissance Hilton and priced at $2400 a plate; the "grassroots' didn't seem to be the major consideration. Local glitterati waltzed down the sidewalk and stared at protesters the way bystanders gawk at a five car pile up.
Inside the venue, Claire McCaskill was feted as local royalty, compared to Harry Truman, yet remained unresponsive to constituents outside the hotel who picketed the event daring to demand an answer to a direct question--will she pledge to vote for a robust public option as a major component of the health reform bill? Will she sign the Bennet letter pledging to use reconciliation for the express purpose of forcing a vote based on a simple majority in order to win the public option? Will she "stop fence sitting' and take a stand for her constituents; the very people unable to afford the 2400 dollar price of admission to this black tie event? McCaskill failed to acknowledge the crowd, much less address their concerns--after all rubber chicken was waiting.
Senator McCaskill, a close and valued ally of President Obama, was an early supporter of his candidacy when it was politically difficult--so, in the "show me' state; WE KNOW that the Senator can make a stand and remain true to her goals. This is exactly why so many activist groups are frustrated with her perpetual "fence-sitting' regarding the provision of a robust public option.
In response to the good senator's public reticence; several grass roots/net roots activist groups have banded together to "call out' our senator and demand that she publicly commit to a robust Public Option as part of the proposed health reform bill. Collectively, they are demanding a straight answer from the very senator who claims to be, as Harry Truman once said--a "straight shooter.' They want to know, WILL SENATOR MCCASKILL SIGN THE BENNET LETTER PLEDGING TO AUTHORIZE RECONCILIATION TO WIN A ROBUST PUBLIC OPTION AS PART OF THE HEALTH REFORM BILL? NO MORE FENCE SITTING, NO MORE STUDY GROUPS, JUST A STRAIGHT SHOOTING YES OR NO VOTE.
So far 41 senators have indicated via the Bennet letter or statement that they will vote YEA to using reconciliation as a way to end Republican and conservative filibusters and thus authorize a public option for all. The "stragglers" either refusing to accept reconciliation or refusing to say anything are as follows:
Sen. Max Baucus (D)
Sen. Evan Bayh (D)
Sen. Mark Begich
Sen. Robert Byrd
Sen. Thomas Carper
Sen. Kay Hagan
Sen. Tom Harkin (D)
Sen. Herb Kohl
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D)
Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D)
Sen. Mark Pryor
Sen. John Rockefeller
Sen. Mark Warner
Sen. Jim Webb
Sen. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D)
Of these wayward senators, certain individuals appear to have a conflict of interest. Sen. Bayh's wife has been on the board of directors of Wellpoint for 6 years, and earned 2 million dollars in the process. (http://www.thestreet.com/story/10618234/1/evan-bayh-hypocrisy-on-the-public-option.html) Sen. Baucus ran the finance committee this summer charged with the task of "reforming' this industry. Baucus not only refused to consider a public option or single payer, but had representatives from Physicians for A National Health Plan arrested for daring to question his actions. In comparison, McCaskill looks clean. The one thing that has infuriated constituents is her selective parsing of language, her refusal to state her position on the public option.
The groups involved include Democracy for America (over 1 million members), The Progressive Change Campaign Committee (over 400,000 members), CREDO Action, and the newly founded St. Louis Citizen's Plan for Real Health Care Reform, co-written by activist Melanie Shouse just before her untimely death. This is the same activist who was honored by President Obama in a memorial tribute. Melanie's plan was designed to be a "principled blueprint' for meaningful reform.
Ironically, inside the event President Obama outlined a plan which addressed some of the protester's concerns. Describing his plan as 'a patient's bill of rights on steroids'; he outlined the three main components. They are as follows:
1.) Guaranteed coverage in spite of preexisting conditions, cover young adults up to age 26, and the practice of POLICY RESCISSION EXPRESSELY FORBIDDEN--so they can't "drop you when you get sick."
2.) Creation of a large consumer pool, which
3.) Will drive down costs according to CBO (Congressional Budget Office).
Nowhere in the president's remarks was there any mention of THE PUBLIC OPTION, THE BENNET LETTER PLEDGING TO USE RECONCILIATION TO OVERRIDE ANY FILIBUSTER DESIGNED TO STALL THIS INDEFINITELY, REPEAL OF THE ANTI-TRUST EXEMPTION, or the protesters outside. The evening was strictly about political egos. Though this plan is a definite step in the right direction, it does not go far enough.
While Senator McCaskill basked in the presidential spotlight, surrounded by fawning political fans; voters outside were threatening to "stay home' election day and send her packing, like "they did to Dems in Massachussets." The message was clear--VOTE FOR A STRONG PUBLIC OPTION THROUGH RECONCILIATION, TO BEGIN SOON, OR LOSE YOUR JOB SENATOR.
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