Monday, August 31, 2009

Webb Calls Out Obama Administration on Health Care Reform

There has been a lot of concern about the tone of the discussion surrounding health care reform and it looks like Sen. Webb isn't too pleased with the way things are going. With the way that the anti-reform folks behaved at the recent town hall meeting in Reston, Webb would be justified in saying that there are some folks right here in Virginia who are more interested in screaming and shouting than actually having a discussion. According to an article written by Bill Bartel of the Virginia Pilot, Webb claims that the negative tone of the debate at least partially comes from President Obama not giving Congress a more in depth idea of what he would like to see in a bill that comes to his desk.
"My thought right now is to slow this down," the Virginia Democrat said. "Open it up. Have some hearings. Let people get their different viewpoints out in a very public way."

The problems today with angry people shouting at each other during community forums around the country and the confusion over what might be included in any health care overhaul have their roots in the Obama administration's failure to present a specific framework for reforms, he said.

Instead, the president has left to Congress the task of creating a proposal.

"We've got five different committees bubbling up legislation, and it's all supposed to come together," Webb said, but none of the panels have had Washington hearings in recent months.
Unfortunately, it appears as though Webb isn't alone in these sentiments. I've had several staffers on the Hill tell me that Members of Congress aren't taking concrete positions on certain aspects of health care reform because they don't know what will be coming before them and they don't want to take a position on the issue that might force them to make a politically costly move in the end.

For instance, one staffer told me that his boss wouldn't sign onto the pledge saying he'd vote against a bill without a public option because he doesn't want to be forced into voting against health care reform if the public option fails to make it into the final bill. After he insisted that we need our leaders to stand up for the public option so that we can make sure that it gains even more support, I was told that people on the Hill aren't willing to go out on a limb because the Administration has been using rhetoric that suggests it might be caving in to the extreme right's disruptive behavior at town halls. In other words, they not only would have to deal with the extreme right but they would also face the possibility of getting side swiped by the administration.

This would be extremely unfortunate if it's indeed true, but I think it also goes to show that supporters of the public option must contact their elected officials. Members of Congress need to know that the people who voted them into office want them to stand up for the general public and support the public option. After all, this is the only option being considered that would represent true reform and make sure that all Americans have access to affordable health care.

In the end, it sounds like Sen. Webb and some other members of Congress are simply saying thay want to hear a little more about what people want to be in a health care reform bill. They wants to know that the plan they ultimately backs has a lot of support. So why don't you make sure your elected officials hear how much people support a strong public option? You can contact Sen. Webb's office by calling 202-224-4024 or the online contact form which can be found by following this link.

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