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Blogger/Editor/Founder: Bill Smith, Ph.D. [aka: OzarkGuru & 2010 AFP National Blogger of the Year]
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One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. -- Plato (429-347 BC)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Today in Washington D. C. - August 3, 2009 - People's Town Halls Shaping the Discussion

Congress is still on recess. The Senate will reconvene on September 8th. While members of Congress are home or traveling, most of them, especially the Democrats, are hiding from the voters. Regardless, the public is shaping the dynamics of the discussion on health care, and the impact is being felt by the Democrats.

Across the nation the people are now meeting without their elected representative in what has been called "Recess Rallies." As an example, on Saturday at 5:30 PM in the Arkansas Ozarks in Rep. Marion Berry district, the people are no longer waiting. They are holding a rally dubbed “The People’s Town Hall" right outside one of Rep. Berry's offices in Mountain Home, Arkansas. Local organizers, Richard Caster and Chris Tuthill said: "Senator Blanche Lincoln and Congressman Marion Berry have refused to hold any form of a town hall for the people of the Ozarks to voice their concerns; so we will hold a town hall for them. Whether or not our elected representatives show up, is not the point. The speakers will be the people in the crowd who will share their concerns about nationalized health care. This "town hall" is being broadcast live by Mountain Talk 97.1 FM and will be available worldwide on their station website. In addition, CDs will be made and provided to the offices of Rep. Marion Berry and Sen. Blanche Lincoln."

For much of the last month, Democrats spent a great deal of time wrangling with Blue Dogs and other nervous members who have been wary of the health care bills being put forward by party leaders, particularly provisions that would create a government-run insurance plan. But on Sunday, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said that it’s “not the essential element” of a health reform bill. And President Obama said on Saturday, “All I’m saying is, though, that the public option, whether we have it or we don’t have it, is not the entirety of health care reform. This is just one sliver of it, one aspect of it.” This apparent shift has made liberal Democrats furious and shifted the party’s internal battle from one predominantly with its right flank to one with its left.

Politico reports today, “The White House’s signal that it’s willing to back off support for a public health insurance option has sent congressional liberals into full revolt, bluntly warning the administration that no legislation will pass without a government-run plan.” Politico notes a number of liberal House Democrats declaring that a health bill cannot pass without a government insurance plan: “‘To take the public option off the table would be a grave error; passage in the House of Representatives depends upon inclusion of it,’ wrote Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) in a letter to Sebelius Monday.”

The Washington Post reports, “In the Senate, where negotiations are now focused, John D. Rockefeller IV (W.Va.) said that a public option, as the plan has become known, is ‘a must.’ Sen. Russell Feingold (Wis.) said that ‘without a public option, I don’t see how we will bring real change to a system that has made good health care a privilege for those who can afford it.’” According to The Post, “Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said Obama could lose up to 100 Democratic votes in the House by abandoning the option.”

Other prominent Democrats joined the chorus of complaints, an AP report noted. “‘You really can’t do health reform’ without allowing the government to compete with private insurers, said Howard Dean, a former Democratic Party chairman. ‘Let’s not say we’re doing health reform without a public option,’ he added in a slap at the administration’s latest move.” And Politico pointed to a statement from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi strongly backing such a plan.

This cascade of criticism left the White House scrambling to explain things. The Wall Street Journal reports, “The White House sought Monday to reassure allies that its enthusiasm for a government-sponsored insurance plan remains strong, following an uproar over comments by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. The White House sent an email to members of Congress and other supporters saying that President Barack Obama wants a public insurance option as part of health-care overhaul.” The email sought to reassure Democrats that “Nothing has changed. . . . The President believes that the public option is the best idea he has seen for achieving the goals of lowering costs and increasing choice and competition.”

Faced with an ever-more skeptical public and moderate and conservative Democrats who are uncomfortable with a government-run insurance plan, it appears that the Obama administration’s attempts to shore up support have now touched off a fight on the left. The Wall Street Journal explains, “Liberal activists say they will oppose any overhaul without a public option, while moderates worry it will pave the way for a government-run health system. The White House is trying to keep both factions at the table.” Perhaps it’s time, as Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has suggested, “to hit the restart button and begin working on real reforms that would address the problems in our health care system,” rather than bickering over a questionable plan to create government-run health insurance.

Tags: townhall, Recess Rallies, Rep. Marion Berry, Arkansas, nationalized health care, Barack Obama, public insurance option, Town Hall, US Congress, Washington D.C. To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!
Posted by Bill Smith at 10:00 AM - Post Link


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The question I would most like to ask Congress is, "Are you going to allow doctors to decline patients that are on the 'public option'?"

There is NO RIGHT ANSWER to the question, yet the answer determines whether the failure is immediate and mild or distant and catastrophic.

Anonymous sweets said...

Obama run with public option but congress ....... who cares.


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