After taking stock of this week’s events, the reform group known as Health Care for America Now (HCAN) has a simple message for Democrats on health reform: Get it done. Now!
HCAN wants the House to implement what everyone’s been calling Plan B. The groups is calling on House lawmakers to pass the Senate health care bill and tie it to a separate bill enacting key fixes. And they want it done quickly.
“We just had a steering committee meeting and it was just–‘end the handwringing and get to work’ was the theme of our meeting,” HCAN’s campaign director Richard Kirsch tells me.
Earlier today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that, for the moment, she doesn’t have enough votes in her caucus to pass the Senate health care bill. And many members are saying that an easier way forward would be to cleave the House bill into parts and pass the popular elements–then send them to the Senate for separate votes.
“You can’t do incremental reform because, for instance, you can’t end pre-existing conditions with incremental reform,” Kirsch said. “You’ve gotta do comprehensive reform.”(Ending the insurance industry practice of not insuring people with pre-existing conditions is a popular measure, but, in absence of separate reforms would create separate problems in the insurance market.)
Kirsch says he and his group now back the same plan that leadership, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), and the major unions support: pass the Senate bill in the House, and link it to the passage of a separate bill, amending it with crucial fixes.
“They have to stop saying ‘Oh, woe is me’ and get it done,” Kirsch said. “It’s clear that what’s going to pass now is what was going to pass before Tuesday, which is the Senate bill with some fixes.”
“Now the question is, how do we do the same thing–the Senate bill with some fixes–but through a process other than the traditional 60-vote process in the Senate.”
What’s important, Kirsch added, is that they put together a package that’s guaranteed to be passed by both houses.
“We haven’t–our steering committee made the affirmative decision not to get too deep in the weeds in the process,” Kirsch said. “It’s got to be done in a way that’s guaranteed to make sure that both pass … They’ve got to make some process adjustments to pass the same thing they were going to pass anyway.”
So how can the House get a hold of itself and put this health care bill to bed? Kirsch sends the following message.
“To progressives: understand that the Senate bill with fixes will be the major advance in social legislation since Social Security and Medicare, and it will enable the bill to be fixed more…instead of starting for scratch.”
For Democrats worried about politics, they need to understand that the worst politics is to do nothing, and they will be blamed for that.
The progressives should do it because it’s the right thing, the conservative Democrats should do it because it’s the right thing and the best thing for their political fortune, whether they understand it or not.