Thursday, March 06, 2008



If you've ever moseyed over to the DownWithTyranny video library and watched some of the clips I've made, you have probably noticed that whenever I need a graphic of a hero, like I did recently for the songs "Which Side Are You On? by Natalie Merchant and "Working Class Hero" by Marianne Faithfull, I dig up shots of Franklin Roosevelt, JFK, Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez, Rosa Parks, and... Paul Wellstone.

I don't want people to ever forget who Paul Wellstone was or what he stood for. Something tells me a bill that passed in the House yesterday, H.R. 1424, the Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act, will go a lot deeper in furthering that goal than my little YouTube clips. This bill was one of Paul's passions, something he fought for for many years. It was sponsored and finally passed by Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) and a retiring Republican, Jim Ramstad from Paul's home state. Ramstad said it was the one big thing he wanted accomplished before he retired after it languished for years under Republican rule. Oddly enough, of the 46 Republicans Ramstad convinced to break with the cruel and selfish GOP caucus to vote with the Democrats to pass this ten (like Ramstad) are retiring. I suspect many of them would not have broken ranks with Boehner & Blunt, Inc. if they were looking towards a future in Congress.

The bill passed 268-148 and the purpose is to end discrimination against patients seeking treatment for mental illnesses by prohibiting insurers and group health plans from imposing treatment or financial limitations when they offer mental health benefits that are more restrictive from those applied to medical and surgical services. Speaker Pelosi stepped down to take the floor so she could push the bill:
"This is an issue of national significance. Every year, mental illness results in 1.3 billion lost days of work or school. That adds up to more lost productivity for mental illness than arthritis, stroke, heart attack and cancer combined. Yet bipartisan and independent research shows that there is no significant cost to insuring mental illness like any other medical disease. This legislation will be especially relevant for our returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan who later become employed in the private sector. This will be potentially lifesaving for those brave men and women who served in the National Guard and Reserves, but who don't receive VA care for their entire lives."

Extreme right wingers did their best (worst) to sabotage the bill, which had 47 Republican backers and all the Democrats save 3 reactionary swine who often vote with the GOP (Jim Marshall and Nick Lampson, of course, and Ruben Hinojosa). Ironically one of the saboteurs was the extremist hack who represents Wellstone's hometown of Northfield, John Kline (R-MN). Kline failed but he made a motion to recommit (kill the bill) so a weaker Senate version could be substituted. Kline riled up the fanatics by falsely claiming that the legislation would force health care providers to offer abortions on mental-health grounds, even though he is well aware that a bill passed in 2005-- which he voted on-- allows providers to opt out of providing abortions on the grounds of "conscientious objection." The reactionary Democrats who voted with Kline to recommit the bill were Jason Altmire (PA), Dan Boren (OK), Henry Cuellar (TX), Lincoln Davis (TN), Joe Donnelly (IN), Brad Ellsworth (IN), Gene Green (TX), Ruben Hinojosa (TX), Nick Lampson (TX), Jim Marshall (GA), Jim Matheson (UT), Mike McIntyre (NC), Solomon Ortiz (TX), Silvestre Reyes (TX), and of course, Heath Shuler (NC).

A great many of the Republicans who abstained or voted yes are in precarious re-election bids in November and are afraid to stick with the GOP party line and vote against measures popular with voters. Among the out of character Republican extremists who didn't vote against it yesterday were Tim Walberg (MN), Ric Keller (FL), Marilyn Musgrave (CO), Vern Buchanan (FL), Shelley Moore Capito (WV), Charlie Dent (PA), Don Young (AK), the Diaz-Balart Brothers (FL), Vito Fossella (NY), and Robin Hayes (NC).

Dennis Shulman, is both someone with a disability-- he is blind-- and a healer-- he is a psychologist and a rabbi. He is also running for Congress in northern New Jersey against one of the leaders of the Replublican move to destroy this bill, Scott Garrett. I couldn't think of anyone better qualified to ask about why a congressman from an affluent, politically moderate, well-educated area like Bergen County would vote against a bill like this. He reminded me that this is consistent with Garrett's voting record which is always against social action to give a hand to working and middle class Americans. "What troubles me deeply about Scott Garrett," said Dennis, "is that he cannot distinguish between the Bridge to Nowhere and Head Start, that he prefers corporate welfare to companies like Halliburton to ensuring that people suffering with treatable mental illnesses receive the care they need. As a pyschologist and a rabbi, I see the Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act as a clearcut issue of both science and ethics, and am proud to support a bill named after one of my political heroes."

Which side are you on? How did your congresscritter vote? How about lending a hand-- or $5 or $20-- and help replace a reactionary like Scott Garrett with a thoughtful progressive like Dennis Shulman.


As we mentioned earlier, all Democrats except for 3 reactionaries who like voting with the GOP whenever they can, supported mental health care equality. Democratic challengers who are running against right-wing Republican incumbents were quick to point out to voters in their districts, the way Dennis Shulman did (above) how their stand on this issue contrasts sharply with the right wing extremists. Ron Shepston, for example, is running against California's most fanatic and hardcore wingnut, Gary Miller, someone who has personally demonstrated what happens when mental illness goes untreated. Ron talked with constituents about it froma  person perspective:
My brother has been diagnosed with a mental illness but won’t tell us what it was. Before she passed away, my mom was diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic so this issue is very close to home for me. Mr. Miller’s complete disregard for the consequences of marginalizing those with mental illness in an ill-conceived pursuit of economic nirvana displays a scary callousness so characteristic of Republican members of Congress. Given all the facts Americans would make the decision that the kind of society they want to live in would be one which considered those who struggle with mental illness in while contributing to society. Republicans’ only hope is to obscure the facts.

Eric Massa jumped right on this early this morning and put out a press release that pointed out that his out-of-touch, rubber stamp opponent, Randy Kuhl was one of only two of New York's 29 congressmembers to vote no. "The Wellstone bill is one of the most important mental health bills ever to pass the House, but once again Randy Kuhl has decided to stand against families," said Eric. "If this legislation had been in place a few years ago, it's quite likely that the tragedy of Virginia Tech could have been averted. New Yorkers don't deserve to have a Congressman who consistently puts the priorities of George Bush and insurance lobbyists over those of our own families. Mr. Kuhl stood against our children four separate times during the SCHIP debate and now he stands against those that need our help the most. The working families of Western New York want a Congressman who will represent their values in Congress, not insurance lobbyists, and that's exactly why I am running."
Heather Wilson is running--pointlessly-- for the U.S. Senate, but she still represents, in a rubber stamp kind of way, New Mexico's 1st CD. The progressive Democrat running against her is Martin Heinrich, the kind of Democrat who stands for real family values, not the ones that disguise selfishness and bigotry. This is what Martin told us a few minutes ago:
Paul Wellstone was a true American patriot and a hero of mine. I strongly support this legislation that addresses an important issue Senator Wellstone consistently championed: seeking an end to discrimination against mental health patients. This is a bipartisan piece of legislation that even our Republican Senator Pete Domenici supported. The fact that Heather Wilson stood with health care lobbyists instead of for the rights of mental health patients is troubling. I look forward to both replacing her in Congress and helping my friend Tom Udall keep her out of the U.S. Senate.


This from this afternoon's CongressDaily:
Groups that opposed a mental health parity bill that passed the House Wednesday gave five times the amount of campaign contributions to lawmakers than proponents over the past two years, according to data from, a nonprofit organization that tracks campaign money and members' votes. The average contribution from the bill's opponents, generally businesses and insurers, was about $37,000 from 2005 to 2007. Two-thirds of the members who received those contributions voted against the bill, translating into a $22,000 average contribution for a no vote.

...Maplight's data showed AFLAC Inc., the National Restaurant Association, America's Health Insurance Plans, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce among the big spenders who opposed the mental health parity bill... NRF Employee Benefits Policy Counsel Vice President Neil Trautwein, who chairs an ad hoc business coalition opposing the House bill, said active lobbying on the part of his group kept the 268-148 vote well below a veto-proof margin, which was a concern.

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At 10:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


When my bi polar husband killed himself in July, he was being seen by a shrink for free because our insurance no longer covered shrinks. He was on 8 different medications that would have cost well over a thousand dollars a month had this kind Dr. not given us free samples. Over the 28 years
of his illness I fought many times
with various insurers over what they would pay. 2 days after his suicide I received a letter "authorizing" treatment for cognitive therapy. I had been fighting with them for months over this.

I hope that those crazy Republicans
never have to go through what I have been through and fight for every fucking cent our various insurers paid us. But then it wouldn't matter because their insurance pays for all kinds of mental health treatments.

At 10:32 AM, Blogger DownWithTyranny said...

Thank you for sharing that with us, Lee. My heart goes out to you and to all Americans who are going through this nightmare with health-insurance-for-profit vultures. I lived in Europe for 7 years and these problems that almost every single one of us faces are unknown to Europeans.

At 10:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well! Many not-so-crazy and/or vulnerable voted for it, but Dave REICHart didn't! What a fucking idiot. He just gave Darcy Burner some decisive ammunition.

At 10:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"vulnerable Republicans". That's what I meant to say.


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