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The health care mess

I don’t know what will happen with health care reform. But I do know this: It can’t possibly be right for the Democrats to do what the Republicans want them to do.

I play tournament bridge, and we bridge players have an expression: “Two sides lead same suit, one side crazy.” The point being, it cannot be sound for two opposing sides in a zero-sum game to pursue the same strategy. For one side or the other, there has to be a better option available.

That’s how I feel about the health care reform bills, which are currently sitting in limbo as Democrats try to figure out what, if anything, they should do about them and all the work they did getting them this far. As we know, the House could simply pass the Senate bill as is, at which point it goes straight to President Obama for a signature and a big accomplishment for a group of people that could really use one. Sure, it’s not perfect, which is why there were negotiations going on between the chambers on how to merge the bills before the Massachusettes special election threw everyone into a frenzy. But as others who follow this stuff way more obsessively than I have pointed out, most of the differences between the House and Senate bills – you know, the ones that were headed for unification and passage a week ago – are small and could be resolved through the Senate’s reconciliation process, which only requires a majority. So you could get most of everything you would have had with one roll call vote, and most of the rest later.

And yet, for reasons I can’t grasp, that isn’t happening, at least not so far. Maybe we’re not far enough in the Kubler-Ross process, and maybe everyone has lost their minds, I couldn’t say. But I can say that to not take this simple and obvious step – and soon! – is to admit that the Republicans were right all along, and that having both majorities and the Presidency means nothing. I’m thinking there must be a better option than that.

I do think that all of this must be as obvious to the powers that be as it is to me, but again, I have no idea what will actually happen. If the collective freakout continues, and everybody tries to pretend that 2009 never happened, the question becomes what the proper response is for good Democrats, to express their displeasure at the home team’s inability to do the right thing. If it comes down to that, then as far as I’m concerned, pretty much everything is on the table. Withhold financial support for the national committees. Support primary challenges as needed. Join whatever rabble-rousing organization suits you to shake things up. Vote against those who take us for fools. Knock yourselves out, I’ll be right there with you.

The one thing you can’t do, however, is stay home in November. Whatever you do, don’t take out your frustrations at Obama et al by taking it out on the candidates on the ballot in Harris County and elsewhere in Texas who had nothing to do with this debacle and are likely as mad about it as you are.

Just think of it this way: Staying home in November means four more years of Rick Perry. Do I really need to say more than that?

Well, I will anyway. Staying home also means four more years of the Republicans running every aspect of elections in Harris County, from voter registration, where Leo Vasquez is busy maintaining Paul Bettencourt’s legacy, to voting machines. Did you hear that bit in my interview with Sue Schechter where she says we’ll probably need to replace the eSlate machines soon? Who do you want in charge of that – her, or Beverly Kaufmann’s hand-picked successor?

Staying home means four more years of the judges who have helped contribute to our overcrowded jails with their wasteful bail and probation practices.

Staying home means Dwayne Bohac and Ken Legler each get another term in the Lege, while Kristi Thibaut doesn’t. If enough people stay home, folks like Hubert Vo, Ellen Cohen, and Scott Hochberg may find themselves sidelined as well. And that’s just in Harris County.

There’s more, but you get the point. I know how frustrating these past few days have been. Believe me, I’ve been feeling it, too, and I do my best to concentrate on the local stuff. But it’s precisely because of the local stuff that I felt compelled to write this. I know folks want to send a message about how angry and disappointed we are at the way our supposed leaders have responded to what should have been a minor setback. I certainly encourage you to do so – calling your member of Congress to let him or her know how you feel is a good idea, too. I just want us all to keep in mind who’s responsible for what. Let’s please aim carefully, OK?

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  1. RP says:

    I’m of two minds about this. The most logical thing for the Democrats to do would be have the House accept the Senate bill, & then pass the reconciliation. But the reconciliation only would need 51 votes in the Senate, so a lot of progressives are saying Wait a minute. This means we don’t need to make the bill satisfy Lieberman, Nelson, or Baucus.
    So the public option should be back in. Which would help make Americans like health care reform. A Majority has always been for the public option. Progressives are also pushing a Medicare buy in for Americans 50-65, & more funding for Medicaid. The only thing I wonder is can the House actually deliver the votes for this progressive package? That’s my question.

  2. John says:

    Let’s face it most of the reps (Dems and Repubs) only care about getting re-elected. Based on the NJ and Va gov races and now in Mass the people have spoken, focus on the economy and not health care. Amazing Obama has now done a 180 where 6 months he was saying how health care was crucial and the world will blow up unless something is done. Today he is finally doing the right thing by laying the hammer to Wall Street and trying to actually create jobs