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The letter sent Monday to Senator Harry Reid, Majority Leader, written by Senator Michael Bennet CO, co-signed in the original by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand NY, Jeff Merkley OR, and Sherrod Brown OH, has been co-signed now by 16 more Senators, for a total of 20. full list follows, not including Senators who say they support ... something.. Official count here: http://whipcongress.com/

The letter lays out why Reconciliation should be used now, finally, to pass health reform with a strong public option, as it has been before, and asks Leader Reid to bring it to the floor for a vote. full text below

UPDATES from the trenches are in the comments, including conversations with staffers, letters, ammunition for specific Senators, and some creative weaseling reported. NEW below is the list of Representatives who have signed a companion letter calling for PO by Reconciliation--121 total so far. MORE CALLS to Senators! Tools below. Please report any responses. Thanks for this great effort.

Others more qualified will hold forth on the Senate Rules. Some diarists and commenters here have questioned the timing, value and legality of using budget reconciliation for this purpose. I'll leave their reasoning to the Senators to explain.

I'm interested in speculation that this is an orchestrated ploy cooked up in the White House in advance of next week's Health Care Summit: a strategic gambit meant to pressure Republicans with the threat of reconciliation, then bring them into the health reform fold to vote for a compromise bill. (as if)

Implication being: a compromise bill without a public option.

You can't keep up with the various machinations ascribed to the Administration over this: linking the President's appearance in Colorado with Senator Bennett's authorship; tossing a health reform bone of political cover to Senators coming up for election who need to burnish their progressive bona fides, etc., revived but always meant to be abandoned when push comes to shove.

They require more cynicism than I can indulge.

A more positive speculation is that Medicare expansion could be the "compromise," forcing Republicans in the end to vote against extending a very popular program to more Americans. I like that one better.

But there's another possibility.

What may have begun as merely a strategic ploy has found synergy with disaffection on the left, righteous public anger--populism--inspired by inaction on health, but also banking reform, frightening unemployment, and the news of astronomical health insurance premium increases, to take on a life of its own. Even if it was meant to be a cynical gambit, the public can make it reality.

This LETTER is a symbol. Making more Senators sign on to prove they still work for us, can be a powerful rallying point, where Democratic and progressive activists intersect with non-union working and middle class people, unemployed people, small business owners, health care insecure and UNinsurable people to DEMAND action, finally.

Note that the letter is addressed directly to Reid, not "the leadership."

Dear Leader Reid:

We respectfully ask that you bring for a vote before the full Senate a public health insurance option under budget reconciliation rules.

There are four fundamental reasons why we support this approach â€" its potential for billions of dollars in cost savings; the growing need to increase competition and lower costs for the consumer; the history of using reconciliation for significant pieces of health care legislation; and the continued public support for a public option.

A Public Option Is an Important Tool for Restoring Fiscal Discipline.

As Democrats, we pledged that the Senate health care reform package would address skyrocketing health care costs and relieve overburdened American families and small businesses from annual double-digit health care cost increases. And that it would do so without adding a dime to the national debt.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) determined that the Senate health reform bill is actually better than deficit neutral. It would reduce the deficit by over $130 billion in the first ten years and up to $1 trillion in the first 20 years.

These cost savings are an important start. But a strong public option can be the centerpiece of an even better package of cost saving measures. CBO estimated that various public option proposals in the House save at least $25 billion. Even $1 billion in savings would qualify it for consideration under reconciliation.

Put simply, including a strong public option is one of the best, most fiscally responsible ways to reform our health insurance system.

A Public Option Would Provide Americans with a Low-Cost Alternative and Improve Market Competitiveness.

A strong public option would create better competition in our health insurance markets. Many Americans have no or little real choice of health insurance provider. Far too often, it’s “take it or leave it” for families and small businesses. This lack of competition drives up costs and leaves private health insurance companies with little incentive to provide quality customer service.

A recent Health Care for America Now report on private insurance companies found that the largest five for-profit health insurance providers made $12 billion in profits last year, yet they actually dropped 2.7 million people from coverage. Private insurance – by gouging the public even during aa severe economic recession – has shown it cannot function in the publicâ’s interest without a public alternative. Americans have nowhere to turn. That is not healthy market competition, and it is not good for the public.

If families or individuals like their current coverage through a private insurance company, then they can keep that coverage. And in some markets where consumers have many alternatives, a public option may be less necessary. But many local markets have broken down, with only one or two insurance providers available to consumers. Each and every health insurance market should have real choices for consumers.

There is a history of using reconciliation for significant pieces of health care legislation.

There is substantial Senate precedent for using reconciliation to enact important health care policies. The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Medicare Advantage, and the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA), which actually contains the term ‘reconciliation’ in its title, were all enacted under reconciliation.

The American Enterprise Institute’s Norman Ornstein and Brookings’ Thomas Mann and Molly Reynolds jointly wrote, “Are Democrats making an egregious power grab by sidestepping the filibuster? Hardly.” They continued that the precedent for using reconciliation to enact major policy changes is “much more extensive . . . than Senate Republicans are willing to admit these days.”

There is strong public support for a public option, across party lines.

The overwhelming majority of Americans want a public option. The latest New York Times poll on this issue, in December, shows that despite the attacks of recent months Americans support the public option 59% to 29%. Support includes 80% of Democrats, 59% of Independents, and even 33% of Republicans.

Much of the public identifies a public option as the key component of health care reform -- and as the best thing we can do to stand up for regular people against big insurance companies. In fact, overall support for health care reform declined steadily as the public option was removed from reform legislation.

Although we strongly support the important reforms made by the Senate-passed health reform package, including a strong public option would improve both its substance and the public’s perception of it. The Senate has an obligation to reform our unworkable health insurance market -- both to reduce costs and to give consumers more choices. A strong public option is the best way to deliver on both of these goals, and we urge its consideration under reconciliation rules.

Respectfully,

Michael Bennet (D-CO), U.S. Senator
Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), U.S. Senator
Jeff Merkley (D-OR), U.S. Senator
Sherrod Brown (D-OH), U.S. Senator

So, what to DO?
Debate, discuss, okay, fine.
Cower in fear that you might be disappointed again? WASTE

  1. Flood the White House with phone calls, emails and letters--there is still time for a handwritten, US Mailed note, most powerful of all--demanding that President Obama also PROVE that he does indeed still work for us when he meets with the Republicans next week. Prove that action on our behalf is the Holy Grail, not the bi-partisanship that Republicans have eschewed from the start. Frankly we all understand that bi-partisanship is just not in their political interest as they see it.

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Comments: 202-456-1111
Switchboard: 202-456-1414
FAX: 202-456-2461 , email http://www.whitehouse.gov/...

  1. Keep working on Senators to sign onto the LETTER. If Senators Whitehouse, Feinstein, Schumer and Sanders can all sign on, what excuse could there possibly be?

Senators' contacts here: http://www.senate.gov/...
Switchboard 202-224-3121, toll free 1-800-828-0498 (connects after a recording)

MORE toll free # courtesy of Docb: 866.311.3405, 800.828.0498 or 866.338.1015, or 866.220 0044
Who also rightly reminds us: you can reach the repubs on these numbers too --Do not forget to urge them to do something other than obstruct!

Simple callin' script, courtesy of CitizenofEarth

Hi, I am John/Jane Smith, a resident of State-X. I am calling to see if Senator-Y will be co-signing Senator Bennet's letter to include the Public Option in the Reconciliation on HCR.

You will get some non-commital reply like : "The senator is reviewing the letter and has not yet stated a position".

You can reply that

"The majority of Americans want a public option and 18 other Senators have already demonstrated leadership by signing. And I look forward to seeing SenatorY joining this leadership group. Thank you for your time and I look forward to continuing to support SenatorY  "

  1. Engage YOUR networks. Netroots and networks are our best tools. Now is a good time to employ them.

THEN:

  1. Help make 1,000,000 calls to Congress on February 24 & 25. Read more here: www.FixItAndPassIt.org or JUST CALL! YOU know what to say!

Who has signed The Letter, and who has not?

18 Democratic Senators have signed the letter.

Name  Status

Sen. Daniel Akaka HI Unknown
Sen. Max Baucus MT Unknown
Sen. Evan Bayh IN Unknown
Sen. Mark Begich AK Unknown

Sen. Michael Bennet CO Author

Sen. Jeff Bingaman NM Unknown

Sen. Barbara Boxer CA co-signed
Sen. Sherrod Brown OH co-signed
Sen. Roland Burris IL co-signed

Sen. Robert Byrd WV Unknown
Sen. Maria Cantwell WA Unknown
Sen. Benjamin Cardin MD Unknown
Sen. Thomas Carper DE Unknown
Sen. Robert Casey PA Unknown
Sen. Kent Conrad ND Unknown
Sen. Christopher Dodd CT Unknown
Sen. Byron Dorgan ND Unknown
Sen. Richard Durbin IL Unknown
Sen. Russell Feingold WI Unknown

Sen. Dianne Feinstein CA co-signed

Sen. Al Franken MN co-signed
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand NY co-signed

Sen. Kay Hagan NC Unknown
Sen. Tom Harkin IA Unknown
Sen. Daniel Inouye HI Unknown
Sen. Tim Johnson SD Unknown
Sen. Ted Kaufman DE Unknown

Sen. John Kerry MA co-signed

Sen. Amy Klobuchar MN Unknown
Sen. Herb Kohl WI Unknown
Sen. Mary Landrieu LA Unknown

Sen. Frank Lautenberg NJ co-signed
Sen. Patrick Leahy VT co-signed

Sen. Carl Levin MI Unknown
Sen. Blanche Lincoln AR Unknown
Sen. Claire McCaskill MO Unknown

Sen. Robert Menendez NJ co-signed

Sen. Jeff Merkley OR co-signed
Sen. Barbara Mikulski MD co-signed

Sen. Patty Murray WA Unknown
Sen. Bill Nelson FL Unknown
Sen. Ben Nelson NE Unknown
Sen. Mark Pryor AR Unknown

Sen. Jack Reed RI co-signed

Sen. Harry Reid NV Unknown
Sen. John Rockefeller WV Unknown

Sen. Bernie Sanders VT co-signed
Sen. Charles Schumer NY co-signed
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen NH co-signed

Sen. Arlen Specter PA co-signed

Sen. Debbie Stabenow MI Unknown
Sen. Jon Tester MT Unknown
Sen. Mark Udall CO Unknown

Sen. Tom Udall NM co-signed

Sen. Mark Warner VA Unknown
Sen. James Webb VA Unknown

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse RI co-signed

Sen. Ron Wyden OR Unknown

Let's try to make something HAPPEN!

Originally posted to Catskill Julie on Thu Feb 18, 2010 at 08:09 PM PST.

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