Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Howard Dean Urges Killing the Senate Bill

I've been hearing from a lot of grassroots activists who are calling for Congress simply to start over on health care reform because they are so frustrated with the stunts that Lieberman has pulled and the White House urging the Senate leadership to cave into his demands. It appears as though there are some leaders of the movement for true health care reform are joining that call as Dr. Howard Dean has said that "the best thing to do right now is kill the Senate bill."

According to Greg Sargent, Dean's remarks were made during an interview he did with Bob Kinzel which will be airing on Vermont Public Radio at 5:50pm.
The gauntlet from Dean — whose voice on health care is well respected among liberals — will energize those on the left who are mobilizing against the bill, and make it tougher for liberals to embrace the emerging proposal. In an excerpt Kinzel gave me, Dean says:
“This is essentially the collapse of health care reform in the United States Senate. Honestly the best thing to do right now is kill the Senate bill, go back to the House, start the reconciliation process, where you only need 51 votes and it would be a much simpler bill.”
Kinzel added that Dean essentially said that if Democratic leaders cave into Joe Lieberman right now they’ll be left with a bill that’s not worth supporting.
According to my sources on the Hill, there is still talk about trying to come up with one last compromise before the Senate goes home for Christmas. The staffers I've been talking to about it, however, have said that the only type of compromise they could likely reach before Christmas is one that would only further aggravate progressives. Furthermore, it might even be so bad that it results in a few liberal Senators saying they can no longer support the bill. In other words, a good compromise isn't likely to come anytime soon.

Although I'm still a little skeptical about killing the Senate bill and starting over because it might end up giving even more momentum to anti-reform advocates, what I'm hearing suggest we have many other options. In the best of circumstances the Democratic leadership might be able to use the next few weeks to convince Lieberman or a moderate Republican to at least vote for cloture on a final bill. If that hasn't happened by the middle of January at the latest, and I highly doubt it will, then I think the Democratic leadership needs to take Dean's advice and "kill the Senate bill."

Now there's no doubt that part of the reason that we're in the position where Lieberman has so much power is that the strategy of how to proceed with the bill was poorly managed by the Senate leadership and some aids in the White House. It is therefore extremely important for some strategic planning to begin immediately on how to proceed with reconciliation. That way Congress can move forward swiftly if the decision is made to kill the bill currently being considered in the Senate.

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