Friday, February 19, 2010

Letters to Washington - The Nuclear Option

President Obama has heard the American people (well, maybe). He's meeting next week with Republican Congressional leadership to discuss their ideas for what should and shouldn't be included in health care reform. So far, so good. However, he's also currently writing his own version of health care reform, blending the House and Senate bills in what he hopes will be legislation that can pass both houses of Congress.

This report has troubled Republican leadership, already skeptical of the coming bipartisan summit. With the addition of Scott Brown from Massachusetts, Republicans have enough voices in the Senate to filibuster any reform legislation (except for the version that passed in late December). The president hopes to use a tactic called reconciliation, also known as the "nuclear option", to reform health care as a budgetary matter, which removes the filibuster as an option.

It's a tactic that troubles more than just Republicans in Congress. I'm not a Republican, as my regular readers know. I honestly don't care which party holds power, as long as they're open to the public's wishes. A tactic such as budget reconciliation, at this point, shows that the current administration is not. The president and Democrats in Congress have struggled to find even one Republican who will vote for their version of reform. Far from finding any who will, there is actually a large number of Democrats who either voted against it or who needed significant "added incentives" before they would vote for it. When conditions are that bad, you would think the president would agree with Congressman John Boehner of Ohio, who said yesterday "a productive, bipartisan conversation on health care starts with a clean sheet of paper."

He apparently doesn't agree, however; a tactic like this indicates he is more dedicated than ever to passing something that the public is more dedicated than ever to defeating.

This is a copy of the letter that I just sent to Senators Jim Webb and Mark Warner of Virginia.

Dear Senator,

I've written to you many times about what should be included in health care reform. Though we haven't always seen eye-to-eye on what's needed in the law, I hope you will agree with me about how reform should be achieved.

It's been reported that the president is indeed seeking to utilize budget reconciliation, the so-called nuclear option, to pass health care reform. Senator, I hope you are as troubled as I am by this tactic. Earlier this month, the president announced that he wanted to meet, publicly even, with Republican leadership to discuss their ideas for reform. It seemed like a good sign that he was aware of the public's opposition to the reforms he and Democratic leaders in Congress have pursued. However, a week before the summit has even started, President Obama is already writing his own version of reform and making plans to pass it without any support or input from conservatives at all.

Senator, you come from Virginia; you know that conservatives are not all knee-jerk obstructionists, and you know that we have good ideas. For the president to take steps like this now, before he has even sat with the Republican leadership, is both unilateral and hypocritical. What is the point of even having a summit if he's going to pursue this route? Some have said that it's just a fallback option in case the GOP has no real suggestions; but surely such an option could wait until after the summit, at least. To make this sort of move now is unconscionable.

You know how unpopular and unwanted the reforms President Obama is proposing are. You've seen that, far from there being bipartisan support for the bill, there is actually significant bipartisan opposition to both of them. Using a tactic like budget reconciliation only makes it worse. The American people deserve to have their objections met, answered, and assuaged before anything is passed by Congress and written into law by the president.

I know you've supported this legislation for a while now, Senator, and that you want to see it succeed. Despite your past votes, I want your pledge to vote against any health care reform that Congress attempts to pass through the reconciliation process. It is an inexcusable tactic, especially at this point.

Sincerely,

Stephen Monteith


Here is the letter I sent to Congressman Glenn Nye, who voted against the House's version of health care reform:

Dear Congressman,

I thank you for your vote against the House's bill. I know it couldn't have been easy to go against your party. Though Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals, haven't always seen eye-to-eye on what's needed in the law, I hope we all can agree about how reform should be achieved.

It's been reported that the president is indeed seeking to utilize budget reconciliation, the so-called nuclear option, to pass health care reform. Congressman, I hope you are as troubled as I am by this tactic. Earlier this month, the president announced that he wanted to meet, publicly even, with Republican leadership to discuss their ideas for reform. It seemed like a good sign that he was aware of the public's opposition to the reforms he and Democratic leaders in Congress have pursued. However, a week before the summit has even started, President Obama is already writing his own version of reform and making plans to pass it without any support or input from conservatives at all.

Congressman, you come from Virginia; you know that conservatives are not all knee-jerk obstructionists, and you know that we have good ideas. For the president to take steps like this now, before he has even sat with the Republican leadership, is both unilateral and hypocritical. What is the point of even having a summit if he's going to pursue this route? Some have said that it's just a fallback option in case the GOP has no real suggestions; but surely such an option could wait until after the summit, at least. To make this sort of move now is unconscionable.

You know how unpopular and unwanted the reforms President Obama is proposing are. You've seen that, far from there being bipartisan support for the bill, there is actually significant bipartisan opposition to both of them. Using a tactic like budget reconciliation only makes it worse. The American people deserve to have their objections met, answered, and assuaged before anything is passed by Congress and written into law by the president.

I know you've voted against this legislation in the past, and I hope you will in the future, whether it's part of the budget or not. I also hope I can count on you to speak to the rest of your Democratic colleagues and urge them to vote against any health care reform that Congress attempts to pass through the reconciliation process. It is an inexcusable tactic, especially at this point.

Sincerely,

Stephen Monteith

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