60+ House Democrats Say "Any" Health Bill With No Public Option Is "Unacceptable"

by: David Sirota

Thu Dec 24, 2009 at 15:30

For those caught up in the obsequiously triumphalist bullshit coming from the DC elite - you know the crap about the Senate allegedly passing the most important piece of progressive legislation in American history today (an analysis I completely reject) - it's important for us all to remember that the health care battle isn't over - and specifically, the battle over the public option isn't over.

Now, I know you've been told over and over and over again on television that that's not true. But that's because almost everyone on television is a card-carrying member of The Church of the Savvy. Somehow, everyone's forgotten that 60+ House Democrats have signed a letter just a few months ago saying:

Any bill that does not provide, at a minimum, for a public option with reimbursement rates based on Medicare rates - not negotiated rates - is unacceptable.

In fact, just so you don't have to click over and read the whole letter, here's a screenshot of the scan of the physical letter, with the relevant sentence highlighted:

To see the list of House Democrats who signed the letter, go here.

"Unacceptable" is a pretty concrete word. When applied to legislation as it is in this letter, it means, um, "not acceptable," which means not supportable, which means a "no" vote. Sure, lawmakers often vote "yes" on things they deem "not perfect," "only mediocre" or even "somewhat unacceptable" - but they don't vote for things they unequivocally call "unacceptable." To do that is to "flip-flop, "contradict oneself" and/or "lie" - take your pick.

Were we all just expected to somehow know that these 60+ House Democrats were lying when they made this declaration to only deem "acceptable" a bill with a public option? As I noted in a recent newspaper column, I know the Church of the Savvy has been gaining new members among some rank-and-file progressives who simply absolve all lying - as long as the lying comes from Democrats. But it seems to me this would be one helluva whopper to simply swallow. And the fact that the press hasn't even bothered to ask these House members about this is sickening. Talk about the media doing its part via omission to help create ideological outcomes.

I mean, it's right there in black and white - a bloc of legislators is saying that the Senate bill is "unacceptable." And not just any bloc, a bloc big enough to stop a final bill from passing into law. On a percentage basis, 60 House Democratic votes - or about a fourth of the Democratic majority in the House - is the equivalent of 15 Ben Nelsons in the Senate threatening to filibuster the final bill.

I'd say that's news, even if the traditional DC press and the Professional DC Left in the veal pen now pretends that letter doesn't exist. And I'd say that the fight to get these legislators to uphold their simple promise is where we should direct our energies as this bill moves to the conference committee.

David Sirota :: 60+ House Democrats Say "Any" Health Bill With No Public Option Is "Unacceptable"

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Congress can pass more than one bill (4.00 / 1)
Perhaps you are not aware that Congress has the ability to pass multiple bills. After they pass this bill, they can just write another one for public option and pass it under budget reconciliation which only needs 51 Senate votes.

See, they can't pass health insurance company reforms under budget reconciliation, but they can pass public option under it.

Thus, two bills. Not everything needs to be in one enormous bill.

Perhaps... (4.00 / 2)
That's true, though perhaps you didn't read the letter. The letter says that ANY health care bill without a public option is "unacceptable."

You can say you don't like that, or you disagree with that - but trying to change the subject from that very clear statement is disingenuous...at best.

[ Parent ]
the problem is that the letter is old (4.00 / 2)
And here's what gets my goat.  You never suggest anything concrete about how to punish them for double-crossing us on their pledge.

Again, recall good old Samuel Gompers, who used to have a policy that labor should "reward its friends and punish its enemies" regardless of party affiliation.

Punishing the Democrats for voting for a Stupak-laden House bill, or for this sickening Nelson compromise that leaves destroying abortion rights to the individual states ("states rights," the segregationists used to call it) isn't some crazy radical notion.  It's as American as apple pie.  Tactically (tactically tactically tactically, not rhetorically) you are to the right of that crusty long-dead reactionary of American labor.

You may ignore the Full Court Press, which would primary the whole lot of the House Democrats, but at least it has a few teeth.

Vindictive?  Any House Democrat who isn't now publicly supporting defeating Stupak in 2010 is complicit in Stupak.  I'll stand by that even if excommunicated from the Church of the Savvy or the Church of the Angry but not Vindictive Savvy.

Full Court Press!  http://www.openleft.com/showDi...

[ Parent ]
It's like you're riding the NYC subway ... (0.00 / 0)
... and some guy doesn't like you sitting next to him, and he ends up saying, "If you ever do this again, I'm going to kill you," so you say, "why not kill me now" (I can be reckless at times), and he says, "next time I'm going to kill you."  And it's  always next time and next time and he knows he's never going to see you again, so he can be really brave in saying next time which will never happen, and if it did, you'd get another next time, and ...

Get my drift?  So I ask you point blank.  WHEN (not IF) they fail, and vote for the measure, having betrayed their pledge, what are you going to do about it?  Take them off your Christmas list?  Sharply worded memo?  Won't let your kids play with their kids?

Sorry to be harsh, but when do you put the "hard" back into hardball?

Full Court Press!  http://www.openleft.com/showDi...

[ Parent ]
I agree with you David, and I am seriously excited and proud of these members of congress (0.00 / 0)
however the poster might be only making a suggestion, without regard to the political  implications of fighting or surrendering.

So it may be not disingenuous, it might be merely misinformed or fearful.


The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky

[ Parent ]
Disingenuous? (0.00 / 0)
Do you even know the definition of disingenuous? Because the way you used it, it doesn't sound like you do.

Why is it so hard to believe a change in strategy? I don't think any punishment is warranted just because they couldn't do all they wanted in a single bill and had to do multiple bills.

Misinformed? Fearful? Where are your heads?

[ Parent ]
I agree, and better NOT to telegraph that now (0.00 / 0)
since we'll lose Lieberman (and probably Nelson too) if anyone announces plans to do this before the first bill is signed into law.

[ Parent ]
yeah ... (0.00 / 0)
they'd never figure that out

Full Court Press!  http://www.openleft.com/showDi...

[ Parent ]
Don't overestimate Lieberman (4.00 / 1)
As Gail Collins suggested: He's really not that bright. Reminds me of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Trall: http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/...

[ Parent ]
It's not news - it's a couple of months old! (4.00 / 1)

Please don't take it the wrong way, but you don't have to join the Church of the Intentionally Dense to avoid joining the Church of the Savvy.

Even Jane Hamsher has said that she never expected that all those who signed the pledge would stick to it to the very end.

I imagine that there will be some kind of relatively feeble effort on the part of the House to improve the Senate bill in some areas.  The AFL-CIO may be able to apply some pressure.  The pro-choice movement may make some gains, though they've been awfully quiet.  Absent marches in the streets in favor the of the Public Option, I don't expect it to be in the conference bill.  And I don't expect marches in the streets.

So I see no point in this exercise except to add another 60+ names to the list of "traitors" (Sanders, Feingold, Brown, Dean, etc. etc.)  Where, exactly does that get us?  What is the point of tarring those who held out for the longest with the same brush as Lieberman, Nelson, etc.?  Are we trying to isolate ourselves even further?

If someone organizes marches in the streets for the Public Option, the dynamic could change, but do you really expect that to happen?  Especially when the Public Option has already been watered down to the point of near-irrelevancy?  If it does change it won't be because of this pledge from months ago.

I think we need to come to terms with the fact that the Public Option may not pass and figure out a strategy for keeping the movement going whether it does or it doesn't.  Instead, I see a grasping at straws, which does no one any good.

I respect much of your work, David.  Yes, Obama's a neo-liberal.  We elected him and now we have to find intelligent ways of applying pressure to prevent him from following that path to its awful conclusion.  We need to find ways of helping the populist uprising you've talked about.  This isn't it.

sTiVo's rule: Just because YOU "wouldn't put it past 'em" doesn't prove that THEY did it.

Close only counts in horseshoes... (0.00 / 0)
Held out as long as they could?  Key word is long as they could.  Apparently, Lieberman and Nelson must be Aquaman because they are still going strong.  

Point is, they're weak.  Besides defending it as not their fault, what is to be done about it?   This has got to stop.  

[ Parent ]
It's easy to be "strong" (0.00 / 0)
when you have Corporate America at your back.

Why is that concept so hard to grasp?

Are we weak because we're poor negotiators?

Or poor negotiators because we're weak?

DK walked away from a bad bill. Good for him!  But I've yet to see a plan that will put even 1 more DK in Congress, let alone the couple of hundred we need.  Not to mention the Senate.

Do you really think that primarying Bernie Sanders is the direction we need to be putting our efforts into?  And is it even possible?  He's not even a Democrat.

sTiVo's rule: Just because YOU "wouldn't put it past 'em" doesn't prove that THEY did it.

[ Parent ]
I'm not sure how you got to me wanting (0.00 / 0)
to primary Bernie Sanders.  I am curious as to why he dummied up, but I would have no interest in waging a primary against Bernie Sanders and think it would be a huge waste of time and resources.  The fact that Bernie, of all people, did dummy up is curious and concerning.  

[ Parent ]
Sorry, (4.00 / 1)
I shouldn't have made that assumption.

Jane Hamsher does want to go after Sanders for his
"treachery".  I think that's carrying the idea of punishing your enemies way too far.  And since you were also cutting him no slack I made an inference I shouldn't have.

Sanders at least got something for the people in his compromise.  That seems to put him in a different camp from the Nelsons and the Liebermans, but many of us are too angry to tell the difference right now.

sTiVo's rule: Just because YOU "wouldn't put it past 'em" doesn't prove that THEY did it.

[ Parent ]
Its your style (0.00 / 0)
And it isn't about "assumptions" either - its dishonest attacking and we have seen a lot of that this week.

[ Parent ]
You will get a lot of less-than-honest responses from this one (0.00 / 1)
Some people routinely respond by misrepresenting what others post.  Just consider yourself lucky if this one doesn't follow you from thread to thread for a couple of days, stalking and flaming you based on total misconstruing what you say.

[ Parent ]
Stivo is a long time OL commenter who isn't known for stalking.... (0.00 / 0)
..or trolling. So, sry, but imho implying this this deserves a troll rating. You, on the other hand, just signed up less than 3 weeks ago, and already have a record of four (!) hidden comments, and several totally unnecessarily inflaming ones. Well, imho you should try to keep a lower profile, and not make totally unbased assumptions on what other commenters here may or may not do!

[ Parent ]
You're right (0.00 / 0)
What is the point of tarring those who held out for the longest with the same brush as Lieberman, Nelson, etc.?  Are we trying to isolate ourselves even further?

We need to then add feathers and ride them out of town on a rail.  Along with every House Democrat who voted for a bill containing Stupak.

As far as isolating ourselves, it seems to me that the Democrats are isolating THEMSELVES by not passing a bill containing the option that the American people overwhelmingly want.  Or are you only concerned with isolating ourselves from the insiders club?

Full Court Press!  http://www.openleft.com/showDi...

Fair question (0.00 / 0)
I am concerned with both.

I agree with you that the Democrats are isolating themselves from their base.  And all this calling of people "liars" for compromising in the end isn't helping us either.

Until someone convinces me that there is going to be a viable third party, I think there is going to have to be infighting within the Democratic party.  We need to get skilled at that, as well as good at operating on the edges, and even outside it at times.  We have to understand who in the DP are our friends and who are not and understand that even our friends have to keep some lines of communication open.

Getting all half-cocked at the same old betrayals we've known about for months (wasn't it obvious back in June that Obama wasn't pushing for the Public Option) may make us feel better (I doubt even that, actually) but it doesn't actually take us much of anywhere.  Eventually, that game will burn itself out if it isn't replaced with some kind of real action.

sTiVo's rule: Just because YOU "wouldn't put it past 'em" doesn't prove that THEY did it.

[ Parent ]
I couldn't agree with you more (0.00 / 0)
That's why I'm advocating the Full Court Press.  I too am sick of the angry tantrums and radical posturing that soons dies down like a squalling baby nodding off to slumberland.

By posing a SPECIFIC course of action, a long-range plan to primary all 435 House seats in 2012 (and some even in 2010) around a progressive agenda, however modest, it gives the serious radicals a place to go that might someday have some real impact.

Full Court Press!  http://www.openleft.com/showDi...

[ Parent ]
This must be the first time in history... (0.00 / 0)
That politicians have ever gone back on their written word... I mean, wow.

I expect house progressives to do everything they can to negotiate the best possible bill in conference, and this letter has been part of it... a negotiation tactic.  I think it's highly unlikely a public option will come of it... that ship seems to have sailed for now for, I think, reasons we've probably already discussed and complained about ad nauseum for the past few weeks.

Work is still being done. This isn't over, good far reaching work continues (0.00 / 0)
Bernie Sanders not only has achieved near universal coverage for Vermonters in his negotiations, he has added another near 10 Billion to Community Health Clinics across the country in exchange for his single vote.

They didnt doubt his commitment to vote it down, they didnt try to convince him, or argue or even ask, they didnt try and say he would be "hurting the babies" they just negotiated.

Hmmm, lots to learn in this. Hmmmm.

Lets ask Bernie to hold a few colloquiums, conferences and interviews with activists and progrerssives and members of congress.

Fighting doesnt mean spitting, insulting or screaming, it means strong honest and ready to settle negotiations.

Damn I like Bernie Sanders.


The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky

[ Parent ]
Sure, I don't mind this. (4.00 / 1)
Like I said, I expect House liberals to fight like hell for their House Bill (or really, even better).  I don't know what will come of it... I'm guessing not the Public Option, but hopefully there will be something we can salvage from it, and if the PO comes out of it and some sort of weird miracle happens in the Senate that makes Lieberman, Nelson, Conrad, etc, decide to vote for it, then all the better.

I'm just saying... this isn't exactly the first time that politicians make public, even written, threats and "soften" those threats as the process continues... How well they wield these threats will determine how good they are at negotiating.

[ Parent ]
The direct funding of clinics, which serve their communities sometimes better (0.00 / 0)
than many other medical service models, sometimes brilliantly, is a lesson greater than merely prescritption writing. This is a model we should consider in comparison to what we expect now.

Health is social.

"How well they wield these threats will determine how good they are at negotiating."

I cannot agree more with this.

For example, I am willing to listen to someones suggestion for example of a candidate that could do ALL of: primary Obama successfully, win a general election AND be worth the fight. I have heard NOTHING on these specific subjects.

So pressure needs to applied, but not to the face, just to the nose.  


The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky

[ Parent ]
Pops (Populista) (4.00 / 1)
Has a diary over on DKOS calling this "the greatest social achievement in 30 years". He's a staffer on the Hill, isn't he? Or do I have him confused with another commenter?

For myself, I was thinking "yah, relative to Midnight Basketball, this is the greatest achievement of 20 years of Clintonism". Which isn't saying much.

IIRC he's a 16 or so year old kid (0.00 / 0)
Who just happens to be smarter about politics than your average 16 or so year old kid. But I don't believe that he's a staffer. Not an official one, at least.

"Those who stand for nothing fall for anything...Mankind are forever destined to be the dupes of bold & cunning imposture" -- Alexander Hamilton

[ Parent ]
I must be thinking of someone else (0.00 / 0)
thanks K

[ Parent ]
Hmm, a sternly-worded letter... (0.00 / 0)
Obama & Reid must be quaking in their boots. Nothing so firm as the house progressive caucus...

"Those who stand for nothing fall for anything...Mankind are forever destined to be the dupes of bold & cunning imposture" -- Alexander Hamilton

Ask Bernie Sanders. (0.00 / 0)


The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky

[ Parent ]
Lots of bravado from them, but never the votes.. (0.00 / 0)
I remember Clyburne saying without a doubt they had more than enough to pass it last time.
'More than enough' never showed up.

David I don't trust Hoyer to fervently back Pelosi's or the
Progressives intentions.  
He was a close Rahm crony who may be working behind the scenes as Reid did to make 'other' arrangements.

We'll try or best to hold them to this. Thanks for the post.

Take a break everyone and have a Happy Holiday!

Nationalism is not the same thing as terrorism, and an adversary is not the same thing as an enemy.

They will fold! (0.00 / 0)
Sorry David but you know as well as I do that they will fold.  The very concept of a Progressive Caucus in the sitting US House of Representatives is a sick joke.  The fact that none of the "mainstream" press is asking tells us that they know that the so called Progressive Caucus is running from that letter as fast as possible and the National Press is just giving them a pass - why rub it in.  They are cowards and will cave - its a 100% iron clad certainty.  

My guess is that the Senate will have its way and pretty much all the House Democrats will vote for the Senate Bill except the beloved Blue Dogs.  Nancy Pelosi will do as the Corporation and Big O and Associates tell her to do.  My guess is that, at best, only 3 or 4 of the so-called Progressive Democrats that will vote against the bill. A few more may vote "present" but not enough to kill the beast. Nancy will put pressure on them to cave because the blue-dogs are much more important to her than the progressives.  Don't kid yourself she is a liar and fraud just like Obama.

This really isn't about what the politicians do. (0.00 / 0)
I think you are probably right about them.  It is really about what each of us does.  Who will you work for in 2010?  Who will you donate to?   Who will you vote for?

Will you vote for someone who lies to you and works against the will of the people just because he has a D beside his name?

I suspect that there may be more dissatisfaction than some are willing to believe.

"Oh. My. God. .... We're doomed." -- Paul Krugman

[ Parent ]
The work we do is harder than this. I dont want to discourage effort... (0.00 / 0)
...in fact, the opposite.

We need to take this "governing our country" as if all of human future history is watching us. Our children, the children of people who share our planet are watching us. Everyday is like a movie being shown to billions of people who will know whether we have been successful saving democracy, and that is what we are doing.

If our actions organize the American people to demand more democracy, become more involved or become better organized, it is even more important than any Bill.

That said, the improved Bill we are making is huge step forward in organizing America for democracy. We are at a razors edge right now, letting it pass without improvement will hurt the drive for democratic reform(and Democratic Party reform) and pushing hard these last few days will help massively. If I read him right, that's exactly what David prescribes.


The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky

[ Parent ]
they already "broke" this pledge (0.00 / 0)
The House bill was not based on "medicare" rates. It is based on market negotiated rates because there were not enough votes to pass that. The letter is moot.

So how many of these 60 ran (and won) in 2006 on "accountability" (0.00 / 0)
and getting out of Iraq?

Did any take a major stand on any of those promises?

[ Parent ]

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