Monday, March 22, 2010

Heroes and Villains In Last Night's Healthcare Votes


Out of step with American families: 2 dangerous clowns against healthcare-- Calvert & Ryan

I can't imagine that anyone who reads DWT doesn't already know that the two substantive votes on healthcare reform last night were won by the Democrats-- and the American people-- 219-212 and 220-211. The conservatives and their Republican Party right-roots, brainwashed by Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh are predicting the same kind of Armageddon and communism and fascism and every kind of doom under the sky, just as they did when progressives broke free from England, freed the slaves, gave women the vote, made labor unions legal, passed Social Security, passed Medicare, etc. Conservatives, and the foolish people who fall for their selfish bullshit, are all about preserving the status quo and preventing progress.

Interestingly, as soon as the bill passed the DCCC sent out a press release to the media in southeast Wisconsin entitled "Representative Paul Ryan Puts Big Health Insurance Companies Before Affordable Health Care for Americans." They made a lot of sense pointing out that Ryan, "rather than vote to help middle class families, seniors, and small businesses finally afford coverage while reducing the deficit by more than a trillion dollars over 20 years, Representative Paul Ryan sided with the big health insurance companies instead." DCCC spokesperson, Jennifer Crider:
“For decades, big health insurance companies have profited off discrimination and denials and pricing middle class families out of the care they need but that didn’t stop Representative Paul Ryan from continuing to side with insurance companies. Ryan refused to give folks back home access to the same health care that he gets as a Member of Congress.
“After taking $534,071 in contributions from insurance companies, it’s outrageous that Ryan would put insurance company profits before helping middle class families and small businesses afford coverage, closing the Medicare prescription drug donut hole, and reducing the deficit by more than a trillion dollars over the next two decades.”  

...For Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District, Ryan’s vote against health insurance reform was a vote against:
o   Improving coverage for 506,000 residents.
o   Providing tax credits and assistance for 153,000 families and 14,000 small businesses to purchase affordable coverage.
o   Improving Medicare for 112,000 seniors, including closing the prescription drug donut hole.
o   Guaranteeing that 8,000 residents with pre-existing medical conditions can obtain coverage.
o   Protecting 1,600 families from bankruptcy due to unaffordable health care costs.
o   Allowing 51,000 young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance plans.
o   Reducing the cost of uncompensated care for hospitals and other health care providers by $23 Million annually.

Nothing wrong with that. But do you know what John Adler (NJ), Mike Arcuri (Blue Dog-NY), Bobby Bright (Blue Dog-AL), Travis Childers (Blue Dog-MS), Larry Kissell (NC), Frank Kratovil (Blue Dog-MD), Michael McMahon (NY), Walt Minnick (Blue Dog-ID), Glenn Nye (Blue Dog-VA), Zack Space (Blue Dog-OH), and Harry Teague (NM) have in common with each other and with Paul Ryan. They all voted "no" both times last night. What they also have in common with each other-- though not with Ryan-- is that each and every one of them is on the DCCC's Front Line list. This is the absolutely #1 priority list for DCCC money. If you donate to the DCCC you will be paying for the re-election campaigns of these treacherous anti-family putative Democrats. Everything the DCCC had to say about Paul Ryan is just as true about the 34 Democrats who opposed the healthcare reform last night.

Regina Thomas is running against John Barrow, the only Democrat to vote "no" in a blue district. This morning she told us that Barrow "voted with the health care industry and corporations. He received more than $80,000 this year alone from health care lobbyists.  His vote was for them and not the voters of the 12th. His actions prove just what kind of politician he is-- whomever gives him the most money determines how he will vote. July 20th will be here before we know it-- then we will have an opportunity to vote him out." We added Regina to the Blue America endorsement page yesterday and urge you to consider helping her campaign.

Another progressive Democrat endorsed by Blue America had a strong message about the vote last night as well. Connie Saltonstall's opponent, Bart Stupak, after nearly derailing the bill, took stock of his career mortality and pulled back from the ledge, though not before doing his worst to weaken women's choice. "First, let me say ‘thank-you’ to Congressman Stupak for his vote on this historic reform bill," she wrote in a statement to north Michigan media.  "Healthcare reform will create a real difference in Michigan’s First District with provisions that extend healthcare coverage to 44,000 uninsured residents, protect 1,100 families from bankruptcy due to unaffordable health care costs, grow jobs by extending tax credits to small businesses, and improve Medicare for 141,000 beneficiaries, including closing the donut hole. And let’s not forget, healthcare reform is also about jobs-- about saving auto plants in Michigan from having to move jobs to Canada to save $7.25 an hour in healthcare costs." But what about Stupak; don't worry; she addressed that too:
Representative Stupak’s support has come at a very high cost. Mr. Stupak’s dogmatic insistence on inserting his own religious views into the legislative debate and threatening to deprive his constituents of needed healthcare reform has eroded people’s trust in him. Throughout this debate there is the sense that our Congressman has let us down. It appears he has been more interested in promoting his own personal agenda than in representing the people of Michigan’s First District. 

The healthcare debate should never have been sidetracked into an abortion debate. For more than 30 years, the Hyde amendment has assured that there is no federal funding for abortion and this bill includes that provision; there will be no federal funding for abortion. 
This is not a perfect bill. I believe universal healthcare is a right, not a privilege or a luxury. When I get to Congress, I will continue to fight for a single payer system which I believe is the most efficient and cost effective way to deliver healthcare to all. Quality healthcare also allows women the opportunity to make responsible life decisions for themselves and their families.”

Blue America-backed Bill Hedrick in Riverside County is up against right-wing fanatic Ken Calvert, who cavalierly voted against the interests of his own constituents last night, Bill's press release:
“For 18 years, Ken Calvert has put party politics before the people of this district.  Today he had a chance to redeem himself by voting for the landmark health insurance reform bill that would directly help hundreds of thousands of people in the 44th. But Ken Calvert, once again putting his personal and party interests first, voted against it.

Because of the vote today, 107,000 residents of the 44th who had no access to health care have access. 19,600 residents with pre-existing conditions can obtain coverage. 81,000 young adults can remain on their parents' insurance plan. And 76,000 seniors will have their Medicare improved.  Those are the facts of this bill.

What Calvert fails to see is that these facts are more than just numbers on a page-- these numbers represent real people that will benefit from this reform. Ken Calvert had the chance to do right by them, and he failed. Just as Calvert failed when he repeatedly opposed expanding insurance coverage to children, opposed re-importation of prescription drugs, and opposed low-cost health insurance plans for small businesses.

Two more facts worth mentioning: This bill will reduce the deficit by over $100 billion over the next ten years and by about $1 trillion over the next twenty. This is fiscally responsible legislation.  Putting the party line ahead of the financial future of our children and our country is irresponsible leadership.

Today’s vote was ultimately about responsibility. Fiscal responsibility to bring America forward and the moral responsibility to keep America healthy. Ken Calvert’s record is clear-- he is not the person to lead us forward as we fight to further reform and balance the budget. It is time for new, responsible leadership in Washington-- leadership we can trust to get the job done.”

Washington state Senator and progressive champion Craig Pridemore congratulated the outgoing congressman, Brian Baird for switching, at the last minute, from a no vote to an "aye," right in line with Craig's own attitude about healthcare reform. "I'm grateful that so many regional voices joined me in calling clearly and unequivocally for a straight up or down vote on the issue," said Pridemore, who has made a clear vote on health care reform a top issue in his grass roots driven campaign. "Baird shifted from opposition to equivocation and then support. While I applaud his ultimate vote, it took too long for Congress to reach this day, undermining public confidence and delaying the needed pace of change and reform." His opponent for the Democratic nomination, a multimillionaire conservative corporate shill has also equivocated on and no one has a clear idea of where he stands on it.
Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH) is locked in a tough primary battle against a very conservative Democrat, Katrina Swett (the former head of Joe Lieberman's national race for the presidency). Last night Ann issued this statement: "Tonight the U.S. House of Representatives passed historic health care reform that will make a real difference for New Hampshire families and businesses. This bill will cut the deficit by $130 billion in the next decade alone, extend coverage to 31 million Americans without health care, stop insurance companies from denying coverage to people who get sick or have a pre-existing condition, and close the so-called "donut hole" in the Medicare prescription drug benefit that otherwise leaves thousands of New Hampshire seniors without coverage. In Congress I'll continue to work for and support a public insurance option that increases competition and will drive down insurance premiums and health care costs for New Hampshire families. I'm looking forward to President Obama signing this historic bill into law. Health care costs are out of control and are crippling New Hampshire families, small businesses and our national budget. The time for health care reform is now."

The only incumbent to vote with the GOP who Blue America helped to win office was Larry Kissell. We withdrew support for Kissell sometime ago when we saw a pattern of him deciding to vote against the constituents he had promised to support when he ran in 2006 and 2008. He has been a terrible disappointment. All the other Blue America-endorsed incumbents were upbeat about their support for the bill. John Hall (D-NY): "Today we took a huge step forward in our fight for affordable health care for all Americans. I cast my vote in favor of health insurance reform because it was the right thing to do. It was the right thing to do for the woman in Warwick who was dropped by her insurance company in the middle of her breast cancer treatments. It was the right thing to do for the family in Wappinger whose premiums are soaring because of their son's pre-existing condition. It was right thing to do for the Seniors in Somers who are stuck in the Medicare donut hole, paying more than they can afford for the medications they need. When I originally ran for office, I promised I would vote for anything that moved us towards universal health care coverage. Today I feel much closer to delivering on that promise."

We've had a bit of a rocky road with Tom Perriello but he came through for Virginia families last night. This is what he sent out to his constituents after voting for the reform bills:
You sent me to the People's House to do a job. For a century, leaders from both parties have pledged that all Americans deserve access to quality, affordable health care. Tonight we delivered on that promise. After more than a year of substantive debate and vicious smears, I had started to lose hope that we would deliver on the change we promised--that we would solve the problems others had simply kicked down the road. I say tonight that our dream of a better kind of politics stands restored.

A few moments ago, wearing an old suit of my father's, I cast my vote for universal affordable health care. Because you sent me here, I got to be part of this historic moment. Because you sent me here, I voted to make coverage available to 49,000 residents of my district. Because you sent me here, tonight I voted to reduce costs for more than 400,000 of my constituents by over $1,000 every year. Back home, those savings mean something.

Beyond the dollars and cents, tonight I think of those families without insurance who live in fear that they are one illness away from bankruptcy. I think of those with insurance who are one pink slip away from losing their family's coverage. I think of the small business owner who doesn't want to be forced to choose between closing up shop or cutting benefits to his or her workers. I think of the medical student who feels called into pediatrics but sees that our system simply doesn't make that a credible option. And I know tonight that we have made things better.

Some say that this vote seals my political fate, but I didn't come to Congress to do what's easy--I came here to do what's right. I came here to solve problems, to work on legislation that would mean something to families in my district, to be a leader, as you sent me here to do. Thank you for giving me this opportunity tonight.

Jim Himes said he was well aware that "taking a stand against the status quo means that I will be under constant attack from special interests" but he felt that "this was one of the most important votes that I will ever take. Not only will this historic legislation lower costs, improve quality and rein in the insurance industry-- it's also the largest deficit-reduction package in nearly two decades. The bill contains nearly every tested idea for controlling growth in health care costs, including new requirements for insurers to disclose and justify premium increases, new insurance exchanges to promote competition, and historic new incentives for wellness and preventive care."

Paul Hodes (D-NH) is another Blue America alum who fought for reform. He's currently running for the open U.S. Senate seat in his state and sent this to New Hampshire voters last night:
Moments ago, Congress successfully passed health care reform. I proudly cast my vote in favor of this historic reform because it was the right thing to do.

It was the right thing to do for the people of New Hampshire’s second district that I am honored to represent. It was the right thing to do for the 1.3 million people in the Granite State who have fought a broken, backwards health care system for far too long. It was the right thing to do for the thousands of small businesses on Main Streets across New Hampshire that have been forced to downsize, lay off or shut down completely in the face of uncontrollable premium prices.

And it was the right thing to do for every single middle-class family in this country, gathered around their kitchen tables trying to figure out how they can possibly make ends meet.

Above all else, this bill is a jobs bill. It will fundamentally fix a broken system that has let insurance companies jack up premiums and eliminate health care choices, killing jobs across New Hampshire. In this reform proposal, nearly 35,000 small businesses across New Hampshire will be given tax credits to provide the health coverage of their choosing. This bill will help put the Granite State back to work.

It will extend coverage to 60,000 of our uninsured neighbors, reduce the federal deficit by $130 billion in the next decade, improve Medicare coverage for 200,000 New Hampshire seniors, and will rein in some of the most egregious practices of health insurance companies.

Insurance companies and their corporate allies spent billions trying to bully us into giving up. Today, we showed them what we are made of. They fought reform at every step, desperately trying to protect their own profits. But together, you and I stood strong, stayed tough and never gave up fighting because we knew it was the right thing to do.

Today is an historic day for this country. I am proud and humbled to be a part of it.

Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Chairman of the Congressional Progressive Coalition fought harder than almost anyone to make this bill better for ordinary working families. He voted for the half full glass and correctly called it a work in progress: "The vote we just cast is a beginning, not an end. It establishes once and for all that health care in this country is a basic right, not a privilege. Our system can be improved in the future, and it will be. I will make fighting for those improvements a priority as long as I am in Congress, because as much work as we’ve done over the past year, more remains before us. Major advances in our quality of life are rarely easy. They are not achieved in a single stroke. They are the result of years of persuasion, discussion and sometimes false starts. This bill is a foundation that we will look back on in five years, 10 years and 20 years and thank ourselves for laying now.”

And the president:

UPDATE: Waterloo

Not everyone is celebrating this morning. Republican propagandist David Frum seems depressed today as he reprises Jim DeMint's prediction about President Obama's Waterloo:
Conservatives and Republicans today suffered their most crushing legislative defeat since the 1960s.

It’s hard to exaggerate the magnitude of the disaster. Conservatives may cheer themselves that they’ll compensate for today’s expected vote with a big win in the November 2010 elections. But:

(1) It’s a good bet that conservatives are over-optimistic about November – by then the economy will have improved and the immediate goodies in the healthcare bill will be reaching key voting blocs.

(2) So what? Legislative majorities come and go. This healthcare bill is forever. A win in November is very poor compensation for this debacle now.

So far, I think a lot of conservatives will agree with me. Now comes the hard lesson:

A huge part of the blame for today’s disaster attaches to conservatives and Republicans ourselves.
At the beginning of this process we made a strategic decision: unlike, say, Democrats in 2001 when President Bush proposed his first tax cut, we would make no deal with the administration. No negotiations, no compromise, nothing. We were going for all the marbles. This would be Obama’s Waterloo-- just as healthcare was Clinton’s in 1994.

Only, the hardliners overlooked a few key facts: Obama was elected with 53% of the vote, not Clinton’s 42%. The liberal block within the Democratic congressional caucus is bigger and stronger than it was in 1993-94. And of course the Democrats also remember their history, and also remember the consequences of their 1994 failure.

This time, when we went for all the marbles, we ended with none.

Looks like Obama was Wellington.

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