The other great myth is that if this current Senate bill, thoroughly compromised to get 60 votes, does not become law it will be impossible for any health care reform to pass during this Congress. President Obama made sure to include instructions to pass health care reform using reconciliation in the budget for a reason. It is still completely possible to pass an arguably better bill with only a simple majority in the Senate using reconciliation. Progressive activists are demanding to “kill this particular Senate bill” because they know Democrats will not walk away from health care reform empty handed. If need be, they will use reconciliation. While Senator Harry Reid and Barack Obama for some reason think it is preferable to let Senators Joe Lieberman, Ben Nelson, and Blanche Lincoln gut health care reform; if they are forced to, they will use a special procedure that completely cuts these conservadems out of the debate.
While I cannot speak for other progressives, I personally have outlined at least four strategies to produce a better reform package:
- Try to pass a version of the House bill using reconciliation. Take provisions removed by the Byrd rule and pass them by attaching them whole or piecemeal to the next few big defense and/or agricultural appropriations bills.
- Use reconciliation to pass a bill with only Byrd-rule proof provisions. This would include an expansion of Medicaid, expansion of CHIP, early Medicare buy-in, public option, possibly employer mandate, etc...
- Pass the bill with no individual mandate for right now. Let progressives hold the individual mandate hostage until some point between now and 2015 (when the individual mandate goes into effect), and they will trade it in exchange for better reforms. There is zero need to have the individual mandate just sitting on the books unused for the next few years.
- Force Harry Reid to use the “nuclear option” like former Senator Bill Frist threatened to do.
I will admit number four is a long shot (although in reality it is the simplest and best solution), but the first three should be completely doable. All the progressive leaders I know who are against this particular Senate bill have advocated for similar strategies to produce a better reform package.
The real choice is between: this current terrible Senate bill, a potentially much more progressive reform package passed using hardball tactics, or no health care reform bill at all. Obama and the Democratic leadership clearly prefer the first option, but they have also made it clear that they will not accept complete failure by passing no bill at all. If they can't get this massive, corporate giveaway Senate bill passed into law and are left with no other option, they will using reconciliation.
The argument is not between people who say pass this imperfect bill and uncompromising, ideological, progressive straw men saying “kill all health care reform because we are unhappy.” The argument is really between some who say we should cheer for our representatives in Washington whenever they pass some terrible of pile of broken promises and others who are demanding that our elected officials use every tool at their disposal to fulfill the promises they made. Progressive leaders are not upset that the reform is imperfect. They are angry because our elected officials have the ability to fulfill their promises to pass a much better reform package but refuse to use hardball tactics to live up to their promises. Killing this current Senate bill is not an act of progressive nihilism; it is the first step in a strategy to force our members of the Senate to admit they can, in fact, pass a more progressive bill.
Until progressives start demanding Democrats in Congress serve us something better than BS sandwiches that will be the only thing we ever get to eat. Those on the “left” who say we should push for the passage of this terrible Senate bill because it is “the best we can get” are lying to you. By being enablers of this myth that Democrats can't do better, they are, in fact, fighting against long term progressive change.
Things will never get better until you demand they get better. Do not buy the nonsense of those who say you must accept expectations so low that you are practically eating dirt. Do not buy the lie that we need to elect "just a few more Democratic senators," because the real problem is that the ones we have refuse to do their jobs. We need thousands of voices all calling out the truth that the Democrats in Washington have the tools at their disposal to do much better. This is what it means to speak truth to power.