On Thursday evening Sen. Jim Webb spoke to a meeting of the Brigades, which is a grassroots organization that formed in 2007 largely in response to volunteers from his campaign looking for a way to continue supporting good candidates and issue campaigns. Webb spoke about a variety of issues, one of which was health care reform. He told the crowd that there were three main things that he thought the bill should accomplish: Increase access to health care, decrease costs, and get a system in place where we can have some consistency in the future.
He then added that “if you don’t have that, it’s not going to really do any good to say you passed a bill.” Webb is absolutely correct and should be taking this message to the Senate leadership if he hasn’t already. We simply cannot pass a bill for the sake of passing a bill – it actually has to do some good for the American people. A bill that has a lot of pretty language, but puts off reform for years or doesn’t give us any real reforms will not do any good. In fact, all that would do is damage the credibility of the Democratic Party’s credibility with voters.
After Webb’s speech, he took questions from people in attendance and he was asked about where situation surrounding the bill in the US Senate. It was during his answer that I think we got the real substance of the senator’s position on the bill. After reiterating that they haven’t even seen the bill that Harry Reid is going to be submitting to the floor, Webb said that he has committed to proceeding with debate. What was very noticeable, however, was the fact that he didn’t say he’d definitely be voting for cloture. While this had me a little nervous, he did add he’s open to the public option and would even prefer “as opposed to say non-profit insurance programs.” Nonetheless, he did repeatedly say that he needs to look at the entire bill which suggests that he could use a few reminders from constituents that the public option is reform that is in the best interest of the people he represents.
The following video is what Webb had to say about where he stands on the bill. There's a transcript below the video for those who are interested.
The commitment I’ve made to Senator Reid is that when his bill comes out, I will vote to proceed to the debate. Because you know in the Senate, you vote to proceed to the debate which requires 60 votes and then after the amendment process, etcetera, you vote on whether or not you’re going to have the final bill and that’s also a 60 vote process. So I have said to him I will vote to proceed to the debate but I think everyone should see the bill before we start debating it. And not to do so is foolish. It just gives ammunition to the people who are trying to say all these other things that we saw in the town hall meetings.
I was one of 8 Senators who signed a letter to Senator Reid saying we ought to post that the bill for 72 hours. Whatever bill we come up with, we ought to let people see it. And actually we should have had a bill that people could have come in and vented their emotions on during the hearings process rather than now. So, as Ben Nelson from Nebraska rather famously said, I’ll tell you about part of it when I can see all of it. I’m not trying to avoid answering you but it’s very important in terms of how all of these things fit together.
In terms of the public option my view is, and I hold it very strongly, that if you’re going to increase the clientele by tens of millions, you have to do something about competition. And there are a number of different approaches to that. But if it came down to a public option as opposed to say non-profit insurance programs, or those sorts of things, I would support a public option. But again, we have to see how all of these issues interrelate.