There have been some extreme ups and downs in the push for health care reform over the last year. But right now we are up, and they are down. By "we," I mean those of us who want to see affordable medical coverage extended to every American. By "they," I mean those for whom health care is, at best, the fourth concern after scoring partisan political points, protecting the privileges of health insurance companies, and winning an ideological battle against "big government" and socialism.
We are in as strong a position as ever on health care precisely because there is a growing movement of Democratic Senators saying they'd rather pass a good bill than a "bipartisan" bill. In other words, they want to use a simple majority vote--instead of a supermajority vote--to push the health care bill over the finish line. It sounds like a boring procedural point, but it changes everything. If the Senate really does use reconciliation, then they don't have to water down the bill (i.e., deny health care to millions of Americans) just to win a Republican vote or two for passage. Shoot, they don't even have to pander to conservative Democrats by offering more favors to insurance companies. No, they can pass the most liberal bill their liberal hearts can dream, as long as it can win 50 Democratic votes plus Biden to break the tie. The House leadership has been on board with this strategy for some time, the Senate leadership has just come around, and the typical silence from the White House signals a green light from the president.
So if we only need 50 Democratic Senate votes, let's take out all the compromises we put in to win Republican votes in the first place. And let's absofreakinlutely put the public option back in. In fact, let's allow every American a buy-in to Medicare--ya know, that hugely popular single-payer government provider. Obama's health care blueprint, released ahead of the upcoming bipartisan summit, does not include even a measly public option. That, like the summit itself, ought not matter at all. The ball is in the Senate's court. Everything comes down to a couple dozen Democratic Senators who are still testing the political winds before declaring their support for the reconciliation strategy. It's up to us to help them make up their minds. And by "us," I mean anyone who's still reading.
The president is still spending time trying to find compromise between an entrenched right-wing and our basic needs as a society. Luckily, members of his own party are realizing that you can't negotiate with everyone. Sometimes you just have to win.