Open letter to Senators Bennet and Udall: “No” on amendments is a “Yes” for healthcare reform

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)



Earlier this morning, I helped deliver a letter to Senators Udall and Bennet from 11 organizations representing hundreds of thousands of Coloradans. These are groups that have been working tirelessly for healthcare reform for many months (and in fact decades for some of them). These are also groups that have advocated for a robust public option.

The purpose of the letter was to urge our Senators to pass the reconciliation package of health reform “fixes” that is presented to them without further amendment, thus ensuring their passage without creating undue delay by sending the measure back to the House.

Nothing in this letter should be construed as a step away from advocating for a robust public option. And, although I do not purport in this post to speak for all of these groups, I believe that they, along with ProgressNow Colorado, will continue to advocate for a strong public insurance option to provide competition and drive down costs. These groups recognize that this is a beginning for health reform, not the end, and that we must pass the bill before the Senate and move forward.  

Following is the text of the letter:

March 24, 2010

Dear Senators Udall and Bennet:

Thanks to your support, the tireless work of our President, members of Congress and advocates around the country, the health reform bill signed into law achieves a milestone on behalf of the health and well-being of the American people. Beginning immediately, no longer will small businesses have to choose between providing health insurance and hiring another worker and no longer will parents have to fight insurers to cover a child with a pre-existing condition. As reform reaches full implementation, not only will 32 million more Americans gain insurance, but Medicare’s life will be extended and the country’s fiscal condition will improve with more than a trillion dollars in deficit reduction.

Important improvements to the health care reform package are included in H.R.4872, the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act. This bill will make health insurance more affordable for families, close the Medicare prescription drug donut hole, and make needed changes in the provisions to fund health care reform.

We ask you to support this bill, without amendment. A “no” on amendments is a “yes” on health care.

Sincerely,

AFSCME

Colorado Consumer Health Initiative

Colorado Center on Law and Policy

Colorado Change that Works

Colorado AFL-CIO

Colorado Public Interest Research Group

Colorado Health Care for America Now

Main Street Alliance

Moveon.org

Progress Now Colorado

SEIU Colorado

89 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. NeonNurseNeonNurse says:

    Thanks for stepping up and doing what needed to be done.

  2. MADCO says:

    I agree- mostly because I think if the reconciliation bill was going to be amended it would have been best done in the House.

    What say you to the Max Baucus is genius crowd who say since Baucus thinks there will be amendments anyway requiring another House vote, what’s the harm in adding any others? public option, single payer, etc

  3. caroman says:

    This presents a voice of reason.  We need to cement this historic victory.

    Romanoff/Sirota would rather pluck defeat from the jaws of victory.  Apparently, they enjoy being losers.

  4. JeffcoBlueJeffcoBlue says:

    I keep him as a friend in Facebook for moments like this (he has thousands, he’ll never find me).

    Latest brainsplat, yes, in reference to this letter: “ORWELL LIVES!”

    This guy is more than just a joke. That’s an understatement. He should be arguing his case from a street corner, it would be less out of place there.

    • redstateblues says:

      He comes on here the other day and says people are mischaracterizing him as a purist, and then he goes and shows everybody exactly why he gets that title.

      His entire argument is built on faulty premises, and the most egregious of these is that PNow, AFL-CIO and others who are encouraging HCR to pass now are therefore lobbying against the public option. It’s insulting.

      I’m sure it’s doing wonders for his show’s ratings, and his Nationally Syndicated Newspaper ColumnTM.

    • MADCO says:

      I think he unfriended o blocked me yesterday.

  5. Steve Harvey says:

    It’s a shame that we have to battle both the Right’s commitment to irrational policies, and some on the Left’s commitment to irrational politics, in our shared efforts to advance the cause of Reason and Goodwill. But I’m certainly proud of all those who have stepped forward, and have spoken loudly and clearly on behalf of a united party, with a united purpose, standing behind a president and a congress that fought long and hard to accomplish what many had tried and none before had succeeded in accomplishing.

    I’ll risk offending those who have placed blind ideology, or personal loyalties, above the public good that we, as a party, exist to advance. We all need to be better than that.

    • kingbaby says:

      To hold a politician’s feet to the fire?  You must be a politician.

      • NeonNurseNeonNurse says:

        It’s very irrational, when the thing you want from him is made of gasoline.

      • Steve Harvey says:

        but I’m pretty sure that I’m not one. If I were, I wouldn’t be blogging so frequently and candidly, now would I?

        Though I can hardly improve on NeonNurse’s reply, I’ll offer my own less poetic one:

        You seem to be saying that anything that can be characterized as “holding a politician’s feet to the fire” is by definition “rational”. So any abuse, vitriol, threatening, complaining, insulting, or accosting, of any kind, at any time, that anyone dumps on any politician for any reason, is always rational?

        Ironically, that’s exactly the kind of combative-to-be-combative, they-are-the-enemy, spitting-and-sputtering-is-good-even-if-the-consequences-are-bad mentality that I was referring to when I used the word “irrational” in my above post.

        (And isn’t that what defined the Tea Party types who interrupted Town Halls last summer with red-faced angry outbursts? That they were “holding politicians’ feet to the fire”? Nice soul-mates you have there, KB).

        • Gray in the mountains says:

          I hope you can figure out how to be less explanatory. Voters want short answers and I hope for you to win.

        • kingbaby says:

          what a politician is, but you’re running in HD28?  As a 3L, I would have thought you would have figured what that is by now.

          It seems to me that Bennet, “the politician,” offered up some red meat to the base to shore up caucus votes.  ”The politician” did so thinking he wouldn’t actually have to act, but his challenger called him out on his BS.  I for one, applaud Sirota and the rest of them for going out and holding the feet of “the politician” to the fire.

          While the action requested may or may not scuttle the reconciliation language, at least these people are on the ground reminding their chosen Senator WHO he actually represents.  You seem to be content with corporate giveaways and centrist language in the current reform law.  Congratulations on achieving those political goals.  Those further Left of you are politicking for their position, one that you and many others seem to believe is not politically viable.  Don’t belittle them by labeling them as irrational, or you risk offending your base, and never knowing what it’s like to become an elected “politician.”

          • Steve Harvey says:

            What a surprise.

            You must have missed the post where I explained that I value integrity over winning elections, which seems to offend you and your friends no end, even while you never tire of accusing me and others like me of being exactly what, to your consternation, we refuse to be.

            When people act irrationally and counterproductively, like the Tea Partiers disrupting town halls last summer, or the ideological thugs currently threatening members of congress who didn’t vote the way they wanted, or their counterparts in our own party trying desparately to snatch healthcare reform defeat from the jaws of victory in order to prevail in a primary contest, I will gladly offend them all with my honest assessment.

            News flash: All of your spitting and sputtering and uncompromising rhetoric doesn’t go a long way toward undermining that assessment.

            I’m not running to represent my base; I’m running to represent the people of House District 28. Those in or out of my district, in or out of “my base,” who, like me, want us to strive to be reasonable people of good will working together intelligently and effectively in order to create an ever-more efficient, fair, and sustainable political-economic framework will support me and other candidates similar to me. All those who don’t share that goal, whatever their political party or ideology, are a part of the problem rather than a part of the solution.

            • kingbaby says:

              Sarcasm is apparently lost on you.

              Equating the actions of DS and others politicking for the PO to those of the racist, bigoted, homophobic, gun-carrying, right wing extremists known as the teabaggers is repugnant and dishonest.  I bet it makes you feel warm inside though, because you’re a pragmatist, a great “middle of the road” kinda guy, aren’t you?

              See Mr. Harvey, you and your ilk like to start the debate in a compromised position.  You’re so eager to compromise from the start that you end up celebrating the passage of legislation the opposition proposed 10 years ago.  This goal of marginal change is extremely inspiring;  where does one send the campaign contribution?  You’re the kind of guy that inspires the people to sit on their ass in a midterm election, and inspires the lobbyist to buy your vote.

              And where have I heard that last piece of rhetoric you ended on?

              Oh yeah.

              http://archives.cnn.com/2001/U

              • Steve Harvey says:

                I love the part about lobbyists buying my vote, something that is both gratuituously offensive and utterly unsupported by anything I’ve ever said or done.

                Your assumptions about my positions and preferences are neither closely tied to reality, nor widely shared. But wasting my time and effort discussing that with you wouldn’t make much sense, now would it?

                Enjoy your self-righteous indignation. Giving you pleasure is the only positive value it will ever have.

              • denverco says:

                not willing to play games with people’s lives and that is what you are doing when you try and defaet this health care bill. Sirota didn’t do this in support of the public option, he did it to try and help Romanoff in his failing campaign.

                Does it make you feel superior to think that you are further left than most here? Sirota and Romanoff would not have voted for the current health care bill. Is it better to accomplish nothing?

                This bill is far from perfect, neither were social security or medicare when they were first passed. But at least this is something concrete not that can be modified and added on to, yet I guess as a far left purest nothing would be better?  Why don’t you ask all the people this bill will help about your position – you may not like the answer you get.  

                • kingbaby says:

                  …that I want this bill defeated?  My original question to this self-righteous political hack was regarding his use of the word “irrational.”  It is not irrational to advocate for your position, and to keep the heat on your political representation for campaign promises.

                  If the citizens don’t continually apply pressure, the lobbyists and special interests will.

                  • denverco says:

                    on this reconcillation bill in the Senate. ANY changes and it goes back to the house for another vote – where it may not pass again.

                    This stunt that Sirota did today isn’t advocating a position, it’s gotcha politics. To do that with such an important bill is shameful. Ther are other more intellegent ways to advocate your position.

                    Real lives are affected by this bill and Sirota choses to play games – disgraceful!

                    • kingbaby says:

                      HCR is already LAW.

                      What’s in the reconciliation bill that you are afraid of losing?  Employer mandate?  Excise Tax?

                      Let me know.

                • Steve Harvey says:

                  People often use politics as an excuse to beat their chests and exhibit their aggression, needing a cause, any cause, that will justify satisfaction of their emotional need to lash out at anybody and anything. Whether they choose the far left or the far right is irrelevant, a twist of their personal history, whichever was socially closest, but it has very little to do with sincere personal conviction. They are often the most violent revolutionaries, the purist ideologues, and the farthest removed from sincerely caring about how their reckless emotional self-indulgence actually affects living and breathing human beings.

                  Whether they wield weapons or words, they are out for blood, the blood of anyone with the temerity to disagree with them, because being out for blood is the end in itself, posing as a means.

        • peacemonger says:

          Maybe verse, maybe prose, but I know it will entertain us.  ; )

  6. He’s proposed to put at least one of the Republican amendments – Coburn’s “no HCR funds to sex offenders for Viagra” proposal – up as a separate bill after the reconciliation bill is passed.

    I think someone proposed that type of action on this very site…  Wise move.

    (In other news re: the Viagra amendment, the Louisiana Democratic Party suggested that the amendment be expanded to cover all sex crimes, including prostitution-related crimes.  Subtle jab at Sen. Vitter noted, LA dems…)

  7. Sir RobinSir Robin says:

    Oh, poor, poor Michael Bennet (D-CO). He just doesn’t seem to understand how the legislative process works. He took to the Senate floor to praise what the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act”-which was signed yesterday by President Obama-will do. That bill is now law. Today they are working on a completely different bill, a budget reconciliation bill, which mostly contains some tax changes that will not go into effect for years.

    Bennet falsely equates what the already-passed health insurance law will do with what this reconciliation bill will accomplish. He claims that trying to make improvements to this minor “sidecar” would be to “play games with the lives of thousands of Coloradans and millions of Americans, and I won’t do it.”

    That is absurd. The bill that expands insurance coverage was already signed into law. This reconciliation bill, with its minor changes for the employer mandate, and changes to the excise tax, is not playing games with the lives of millions of Americans. Whether this new bill passes or not it will have little impact on our health care system.

    Bennet also claims that merely offering some popular amendments to improve the reconciliation bill would kill it. This is completely nonsense. Changing the bill will only send it back to the House for another vote, where it would likely pass. Because of Byrd rule points of order, the bill will almost certainly need to go back to the House for another vote, anyway. Of course, if there are not enough votes for the amended reconciliation bill in the House, they can always amended the bill again to their liking and send it back to the Senate for a final vote. This is how the legislative process works.

    In a moment of pure comedy, Bennet states that he “will continue to fight for the [public option] until we get a vote.” Clearly Bennet doesn’t have the vaguest understanding of what the word “fight” means-because he doesn’t even need to fight to get a vote on the public option. All he needs to do is exercise his right as a senator, and politely ask for a vote on the public option by offering an amendment.

    It is completely within his power to get a vote on the public option at this very moment because of the rules of reconciliation. All he needs to do is offer an amendment, and it will get an up-or-down vote in the Senate. In fact, a reconciliation that deals with health care is basically the only time Bennet can be assured to get an up-or-down vote on the public option.

    I guess taking one very simple step to ensure that you get a vote on the public option, at the time when you most easily can, is just too hard a fight for Michael Bennet.

    • Steve Harvey says:

      in the falsehood in the fourth paragraph: “where it would likely pass”. Why that is a falsehood has been explained in detail, repeatedly, on this site. If the House had the votes for the bill with the Public Option, then they would have sent that bill to the Senate, and Michael Bennet would have whipped to pass the bill with the public option that was sent to the Senate. Since the bill was sent without the public option, the understanding (that the House tried to get in blood from the Democratic caucus in the Senate) is that they would not send it back with any amendments, and in particular with a public option amendment, because they do not have the votes in the house for the bill so amended.

      This is the reality of the politics of this bill. It is exactlly as much as the most strident advocates were able to pull off.

      • MADCO says:

        ding, ding    ding, ding    ding, ding    ding, ding    ding, ding    

        If the House had the votes, they would have amended it.  Why isn’t team Romanoff beating up on Polis and Degette?

  8. DaftPunkDaftPunk says:

    But back home, Mr. Bennet was under pressure from some liberals.

    David Sirota, a liberal columnist and radio show host in Colorado, pushed for action on the public option on Wednesday and said it should be an issue in Mr. Bennet’s primary campaign.

    “While the fact that no single Democratic senator has stepped up to promise to offer this amendment is a sad commentary on the state of politics right now, this is a rare chance to use the pressure of a Democratic primary to force this absolutely critical issue,” Mr. Sirota wrote in an e-mail message.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03

    Kind of like the feeling about RealClearPolitics putting John Salazar’s seat in play, you have to wonder how much the east coast knows about Colorado politics.  

    They’ve swollen our resident twerp’s head another few sizes.

    • kingbaby says:

      I’m amazed how much vitriol there is against the one left of center prolific voice on Denver radio.

      • Steve Harvey says:

        define their loyalties along a spectrum from left to right.

        Rational people of good will seek to serve the interests of human beings, here and elsewhere, now and in the future, by applying sound reason to reliable information in service to humanistic goals.

        If someone proposes actions that, by an observer’s best analysis, obstructs rather than serves those goals, and does so adamantly and angrily, they are as deserving of vitriol as anyone else who that observer judges to fall into that same category. Where they fall on the political spectrum is irrelevant, though to the extent that there is a perceived correlation between those who satisfy the precise criteria identified above and where they fall along the political spectrum, that may determine one’s political identity.

        The observer may be wrong; the object of vitriol may be right. Civil discourse has as its purpose (one would hope) sorting that out by placing competing arguments in direct and visible competition with one another. Vitriol in general is to be avoided, and rational argument to be embraced. But vitriol often incites vitriol, and one can hardly complain about it being directed against Sirota when he has called those who politely disagree with him “disgusting,” among other things.

        • kingbaby says:

          DS has certainly ramped up the rhetoric to those who oppose his positions, and he should be called out on it.

          I started off these series of heated threads questioning your use of the word “irrational” to those who supported the actions of DS and FDL.  I didn’t see this behavior as being irrational, but appropriate for progress.  Perhaps what this has shown is that we have tactical differences;  I believe you must campaign for MORE than what you actually want because you will inevitably have to compromise, and you seem to believe to campaign on a more pragmatic approach (correct me if I’m wrong).  I believe it is important to let the D’s know that we ARE NOT HAPPY with this centrist legislation, and more work needs to be done on this topic.

          I really don’t know if Bennet risks killing the Recon Amendment by introducing a PO, especially since it has to go back to the House now anyway.  What’s in it that is so vital to the success of HCR?  Please tell me, I honestly wish to know, as I don’t have the time to read hundreds of pages of legalese that I will probably not comprehend anyway.

          What I do know is I appreciate “rational,” civil, populist pressure applied to politicians rather than corporate dollars buying votes.  I believe the system would produce much better results if real PEOPLE engaged themselves in a civil manner, as I believe DS and the others did yesterday at Bennets office.  I felt these people were being attacked for their behavior, thus my involvement in the thread.

          His rhetoric on the air probably needs to cool down, but it pales in comparison to what we hear on the other AM stations, which seem to insight anger and violence toward politicians.

          • AristotleAristotle says:

            …. has a long history of insulting and degrading those who disagree with him, and doing so without provocation. He has done it here on ColoradoPols on more than one occasion, and most of the people writing about him here were on the other side of these attacks.

            Sirota’s conduct has completely undermined his credibility with us. He reacted angrily when faced with criticisms of his logic. He used weird insults like “starfucker,” what that means I don’t know. He altogether displayed behavior unbecoming of a public figure using his own name and painted himself as an all-or-nothing hard left extremist, the sort of which those of us who’d like to see things get done, no longer have any time for.

            If you’re not just shilling for Sirota, then welcome. But be forewarned – we don’t have a lot of patience for hardliners.

          • Steve Harvey says:

            And I appreciate the tone of your reply.

            You don’t have me exactly right (this is the “correcting you if you’re wrong” part). I don’t start with a priori assumptions about what a starting position should be in a bargaining scenario. As a general rule, I agree with you: Start out by asking for more than you hope to end up with, leaving room for give-and-take. But every situation is unique, every stage or moment in a bargaining scenario different, and you have to select your approach within the totality of the circumstances, applying all relevant factors. In other words, you have to use your head rather than some pre-ordained rule. To the extent that you rely on algorithms to guide you, they need to be fairly complex and subtle ones, with lots of implicit “if-thens” incorporated into them. (In reality, of course, it’s going to be a more heuristic approach than that, but this is a bit of simplification for the sake of conversation).

            I used the word “irrational” because that’s my honest assessment. Part of that assessment depends on the right measure of humility and delegation of responsibilities: There is a complex deal on the table that a lot of people who I support in office have worked out, and that in their view depends on the Democratic caucus in the Senate not adding in any amendments to the reconciliation bill. It is, to me, irrational, after this long, drawn-out fight to undermine their ability to do their job with their knowledge of what is happening on the ground. I, personally, believe in representative democracy rather than a constant public pressure toward plebiscite. I want the public to tell their elected officials want they want, urge them, and particularly those of their party, to implement their will, and then let them do it to the best o their ability. If you don’t like the job they did, replace them in the next election with someone who you think can do it better.

            To your more specific question, the answer is, honestly, I’m not sure. I almost posted days ago asking for some clarification on this, and I have searched the internet a bit for some clarification, but, frankly, I’m a little confused. The president signed into law the health care bill. It is, as you say, now law. But the reconciliation bill’s passage is touted as an integral and necessary component to enacted the law that has already been enacted. I agree with you at a glance: I don’t know exactly how its failure to pass could scuttle a bill that has already been enacted into law. But I can provide plausible scenarios, and that, combined with humility and a willingness to defer at times to others on the ground, leads me to the same conclusion that it is irrational now to try to force by popular will an action that everyone who has been working for passage of this bill insists would be a very dangerous move.

            One plausible scenario is this: Laws depend on being fincanced in order to function. Many laws have been effectively reduced in salience by starving their administrative agencies of funds. The reconciliation determines how the health care act will be funded. If the act isn’t funded, it’s going to crash and burn.

            Maybe that’s it, maybe not. Maybe it’s something more direct. Maybe there are key provisions in the reconciliation bill that are pivotal for the enacted law to function. Maybe the failure of the Senate to pass the reconciliation bill as is somehow puts the enacted law itself into jeopardy (this is the thing I’ve been trying to clear up, but haven’t found direct information on).

            But reason doesn’t depend on omniscience, and shouldn’t be invoked on the pretense that one is omniscient. Reason often depends, critically, on knowing what you don’t know, and on what basis you have to make choices in a context of uncertainty and of an uneven distribution of knowledge.

            It is unreasonable- irrational- to insist that the express will of every elected Democrat who has forged this deal not to pass the health care act, a deal which includes an agreement not to amend the reconciliation bill in the senate, is based on an inferior understanding of what is the best move at this point than the armchair quarterbacking of observers who are certain they are either better informed or more morally pure.

            • kingbaby says:

              …for a cogent response.  This is by far the best one I have read.

              Your point about algorithms and heuristics is well taken.  I cannot say x approach works best in every circumstance because obviously every situation is different.  I agree that you must take each situation as it comes, and apply reasoning to the issue at hand.

              You seem to accept the reasons given by the elected representatives and provide sound logic for doing so. Your scenarios are valid and make perfect sense. If they are close to being correct, I would obviously NOT want to jeopardize what we have already codified into law.

              However, I have yet to hear actual reasons on WHY this bill must be passed, and only that it MUST pass.  This line of argument bothers me immensely – we HAD to bail out the banks, go to war with Iraq, etc. etc.  It induces fear into the equation, which is terrible for those who like to use reason and logic to solve complex problems(BTW – if you are elected, please don’t rely on fear to advance your agenda).

              Maybe I have a homework assignment to work on, for I too cannot find a summary of this bill.

              • Steve Harvey says:

                that it is far preferable to have a precise knowledge of why a particular political maneuver is necessary than to have to trust in those to whom you have delegated both the responsibility and the trust (in the case of those of our own party) to do so in good faith and to the best of their ability. Their motives can be imperfect, or their calculation wrong. The latter is less problematic, because there is no other entity, including popular will, with a better chance of employing a superior calculation. But the former issue of motives is certainly problematic. It’s called “the agency problem,” and there are mountains of academic and professional tomes addressing it, from a variety of disciplines.

                We can leave it at that for now, with an agreement to disagree for the time being on the precise dimensions and character of that agency problem vis-a-vis the public and their representatives, and the best ways to address it.

              • kingbaby says:

                As you guessed, there are quite a few funding amendments in the bill.  There are also a number of items related to higher ed (mandating funding of Pell Grants and student loan reform), closing the Medicare Prescription Drug “Donut Hole,” extends the age of covered dependents to 26, prohibits lifetime limits for insurance companies, and other good things…

                http://www.opencongress.org/ar

                Bottom line – I would be hesitant to risk a lot of this language for the PO.

      • Ralphie says:

        Maybe if you had been around here longer than just one day, you might have read some threads that would have enlightened you.

      • DaftPunkDaftPunk says:

        …For Sirota

        King Baby.

        Love your jewelry by the way.  Gotta get me one of those belt buckles

  9. protestinthestreet@yahoo.com says:

    , oh yeah, a Healthcare Bill,

    WE should call their bluff and tell them

    we’ll only vote for them in November

    IF they PASS “Medicare For ALL” By November.

  10. bluemountains says:

    Guaranteed?  I could have sworn Bernie Sanders said that… and for some reason I trust the aforementioned organizations much more than Jane Hamsher (10 reasons to kill the senate bill) and DS. This was a win-win for the AR camp. If Bennet stalls the reconciliation bill or if he is sane and doesn’t offer an amendment, they spin both ways. Silly season is here.

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