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I'm no negotiating expert, but I know that if you're not willing to walk away from a bad deal, no one will take your demands seriously.

Americans overwhelmingly want a public health insurance option and need that option for any number of reasons. Who you are and where you live strongly affects the kind of health insurance and health care you receive. Most Americans live in communities where one or two private companies dominate the health insurance market. Rural residents often have very limited access to health care providers. People of color also are shortchanged by our current system.

Despite all these problems, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus has done his best in recent weeks to show that The Onion was right about him eight years ago. Baucus has continued to pursue a bipartisan agreement on health care containing a fake public option.

Ezra Klein underscored how ridiculous Baucus' approach is given the current balance of power in the Senate:

This is who is in the room helping Baucus put together his bill. Olympia Snowe, Mike Enzi, Chuck Grassley, Jeff Bingaman and Kent Conrad. In a Senate of 60 Democrats and 40 Republicans, the health-care reform bill is being written by three centrist Democrats, one centrist Republicans, and two conservative Republicans. And until last week, Orrin Hatch was in the room, too.

This is not the Finance Committee's bill. This is the Max Baucus Committee's Bill. And there's not a liberal -- or even a Democrat traditionally associated with health-care policy -- working on it. Jay Rockefeller, chairman of Finance's health subcommittee, is not included in the negotiations. Nor is Ron Wyden, who has written the Healthy Americans Act. Chuck Schumer isn't in the room, nor is John Kerry, Debbie Stabenow or Maria Cantwell.

I've been hoping President Barack Obama would put an end to the dangerous Baucus/Grassley dealmaking by threatening to veto any health care bill that did not meet certain conditions. Instead, the White House continues to signal that regional co-operatives or some other fake public option might be acceptable. In other words, Obama is desperate to sign something, anything, this year so that he can declare victory on health care reform.

In this context, it's not surprising that Baucus' bill has dropped the public option, and House "Blue Dogs" have succeeded in weakening what was already a weak public option in the House draft bill. We are now looking at a Massachusetts-style system, with a mandate for individuals to purchase health insurance and no public option to compete with the overpriced private products. That won't solve our problems and would be a political disaster for Democrats.

Fortunately, House Progressives may be willing to reject this bad deal and start the process over next year. Key features of the House bill wouldn't have gone into effect until 2013 anyway. It's worth waiting a year for a better bill. Obama knows this is make or break for his presidency, and he will start twisting Blue Dog arms if he knows the Progressive Caucus is serious about not getting rolled.

Senate Democrats should vote down the Baucus-Grassley compromise in the Finance Committee or on the Senate floor. Then they should implement a new rule suggested by Senator Harkin:

"Every two years the caucus could have a secret ballot on whether a chairman should continue, yes or no," said Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. "If the ‘no’s win, [the chairman’s] out.

"I’ve heard it talked about before," he added. [...]

Some senators suggest privately that Baucus might be more open to persuasion if his chairmanship is subject to regular votes.

Another senior Democratic senator endorsed Harkin’s suggestion but declined to speak on the record for fear of angering Baucus.

"Put me down as a yes, but if you use my name I’ll send a SWAT team after you," said the lawmaker when asked about a biennial referendum on chairmen.

Baucus has been bought and paid for by industries that want to block real reform, and his fellow Senate Democrats are the only people who can strip him of the power to block real reform. If they reject his bill and take away his gavel, there's a chance of passing a strong bill next year through the reconciliation process. This approach carries some political risks and will force Obama to be more engaged in the Congressional negotiations than he has so far. But that is better than letting Baucus ruin our best chance for health care reform in a generation.

A real public health insurance option is still worth fighting for, next year if necessary. It's more important to get this right than to get something on the president's desk by October.

P.S. Why is the Populist Caucus led by Congressman Bruce Braley (IA-01) still AWOL in the debate over what kind of public option makes it into this bill? Braley promised that health care reform would be a top priority of the Populist Caucus.

Originally posted to desmoinesdem on Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 11:55 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

    •  You're right. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LordMike, desmoinesdem, math4barack

      I feel like Star Wars.  "Obi-Wan Kenobi (Progressive Caucus), you're our only hope."

      Saw it long ago.  The message Princess Leia leaves in the little robot R2d2.

      They "prefer an America where parents will lie awake at night worried if they can afford health care their children need."

      by TomP on Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 12:03:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Only True Believers Should Have a Gavel (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        desmoinesdem, Tinfoil Hat, TomP

        DEMs must cull out their soft "leaders" and only give a chairman/womanship to those who are true believers. Are they for President Obama's Progressive agenda or not? Any who are lukewarm are welcome in the party but must take a back bench seat.

        A boner is a terrible thing to waste.

        by Otherday on Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 12:10:06 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  There is a difference between (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          LordMike, desmoinesdem, TomP, costello7

          a big tent and on key legislation allowing the GOP, who lost power because their policies have been discredited from controlling the debate. When that big tent ignores the party's goals in favor of positions that are only supported by 25 percent of the population-t hat's not a big tent. I just want to unfurl what the big tent should mean. It should not mean do whatever the right wants us to do.

  •  Lynn Woolsey is our Obi Won. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bruh1, desmoinesdem, Tinfoil Hat

    Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) just announced that Congressional progressives have 53 signatures on the letter that says their caucus won't vote for legislation that contains the Blue Dog compromise.

    They "prefer an America where parents will lie awake at night worried if they can afford health care their children need."

    by TomP on Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 12:11:09 PM PDT

  •  The sad thing about having to wait for a yr (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    desmoinesdem

    Because of these "centrist" Dems obstructionist corrupt policies is that thousands will die due to lack of access, thousands more rendered bankrupt, and thousands more will fall off the insurance rolls.
    Thats a steep price to pay, and yet no outrage?

  •  Some Montanans (4+ / 0-)

    would like to see Baucaus replaced as Senator. I one of a handful of Liberal Democrats in the state I will work to find someone else for his seat.

  •  Bypass Baucus/Go Directly to Senate Floor (link) (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    desmoinesdem, costello7

    http://rules.senate.gov/...
    http://www.senate.gov/...

    ____________________________

    Few measures are considered on the Senate floor without prior committee concurrence. However,
    there are a number of ways to handle legislation without formal approval by the committee of
    jurisdiction. One possibility is to bypass committee consideration of a measure entirely by placing
    it directly on the Senate calendar. If any Senator objects to its referral to committee, a measure
    may be placed on the Senate calendar (Senate Rule XIV, paragraph 4). Although rarely used, this
    procedure would allow floor action without formal consideration by the committee of
    jurisdiction. In other cases the Senate has created leadership or other task forces to handle major
    issues and problems, rather than rely exclusively on the committees of jurisdiction to consider
    related bills.
    In still other instances, Senators offer floor amendments consisting of the text of
    bills before committees, and there is no general requirement that these amendments be germane
    to the measure under consideration.

  •  Dems may not have courage to walk away (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    desmoinesdem

    from a bad deal, but I guarantee you voters will walk away from a weak party.  

    Obama needs to become "The Rock Obama," at this point, and start trhrowing some Senators out some windows.  The time for playing nice has long since passed.  Hell, they're going to say he rammed it down their throats no matter what, so he might as well go ahead and do so.

    •  that's what I'm afraid of (0+ / 0-)

      and Obama just doesn't seem to have it in him to play hardball with the bad Democrats. Maybe it takes someone with an LBJ personality to drag Congress along kicking and screaming.

      Join the Iowa progressive community at Bleeding Heartland.

      by desmoinesdem on Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 07:32:22 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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