Monday, March 8, 2010

Letters to Washington - Warner and Nye

In response to my last letter to Senator Mark Warner, he sent me a copy of several amendments he had made to the Senate's version of health insurance reform. They looked pretty good, to me; but they were all about cost-containment, not ideology. I'd expected that, actually. Ideology is all that separates political parties, after all, and Democrats cannot really be expected to support certain measures that Republicans would support. You may as well ask them to support a bill that allows school prayer with the enticement that creationism will never be taught in public schools.

I don't begrudge anyone their ideology. This is the land of the free, after all. What I want is for our leadership, particularly my own representatives in Congress, at least to acknowledge why I oppose their efforts. It's not just about deficit reduction. It's about not having federal mandates for either individuals or businesses; about not providing coverage for abortions or persons who are in this country illegally; about not having a government-run health insurance system; and about not using the reconciliation process for passage of such an influential and controversial bill. If they are going to vote for a bill that goes against this, then let them at least say so, so I can start shopping for new representatives.

This is a copy of the letter I wrote to Senator Warner, a slightly modified version of which I sent to Senator Jim Webb:

Dear Senator,

I appreciate your reply to my last letter, including the amendment package you included. They look to be very good measures that would help keep down costs, and I'm pleased that the Senate is taking cost control seriously.

There are, however, significant issues that still have not been addressed fully. As I've written before, no health insurance reform can include federal mandates, either for businesses or individuals. As the CBO wrote when President Clinton proposed similar mandates sixteen years ago, this would be the first time in history the government has mandated any sort of purchase by the American people.

Another issue is abortion funding. The president has stated there is no abortion funding in the bill he will send to Congress, but recent statements by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius suggest otherwise. The Stupak Amendment included in the House bill has no true parallel in the Senate version, which the president favors. As for funding of illegal immigrants, I've yet to see language in either bill that expressly prohibits it. Perhaps I missed something; it is thousands of pages long, after all, and will no doubt become even longer if the budget reconciliation process is used (which I also oppose).

Finally, the president has said repeatedly that he would not sign a bill that adds "even one dime" to the federal deficit. The bill he proposes, however, as scored by the CBO, would add significant deficits in the coming years. As these issues rise to the surface, Senator, it becomes clear why Republican congressmen and the public at large still oppose the bill. Even though the president has incorporated some Republican ideas in his proposal, key issues such as banning coverage for illegals and abortion, mandates on individuals and businesses, and the very real possibility that taxes will be raised significantly to pay for it all remain crucial to winning support from the people; including myself.

The president and Congress can incorporate as many cost-cutting measures as they can, Senator; but it misses the heart of the debate. Trimming around the edges won't chop down the tree; and as optimistic as you are about the potential the reconciliation process has for reducing the deficit, it's not as benign a tactic as you believe. Democrats used to remember that.

Sincerely,

Stephen Monteith


This is a copy of the letter I wrote to Congressman Glenn Nye, who is one of the few members of the House of Representatives I would characterize as a centrist:

Dear Congressman,

I appreciate your recent donation to Vetshouse of the money Congressman Rangel donated to your campaign. I know you're a heavy target this election year, and while I haven't decided who I will support, your continued willingness to work across the aisle is a definite selling point, for myself and many others.

Health care reform is still in the air, Congressman. The leadership has been pressuring you, I know. When you talk to them, please make them aware there are significant issues that still have not been addressed fully. As I've written before, no health insurance reform can include federal mandates, either for businesses or individuals. As the CBO wrote when President Clinton proposed similar mandates sixteen years ago, this would be the first time in history the government has mandated any sort of purchase by the American people.

Another issue is abortion funding. The president has stated there is no abortion funding in the bill he will send to Congress, but recent statements by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius suggest otherwise. The Stupak Amendment included in the House bill has no true parallel in the Senate version, which the president favors. As for funding of illegal immigrants, I've yet to see language in either bill that expressly prohibits it. Perhaps I missed something; they are thousands of pages long, after all, and will no doubt become even longer if the budget reconciliation process is used (which I also oppose).

Finally, the president has said repeatedly that he would not sign a bill that adds "even one dime" to the federal deficit. The bill he proposes, however, as scored by the CBO, would add significant deficits in the coming years. As these issues rise to the surface, Congressman, it becomes clear why Republican congressmen and the public at large still oppose the bill. Even though the president has incorporated some Republican ideas in his proposal, key issues such as banning coverage for illegals and abortion, mandates on individuals and businesses, and the very real possibility that taxes, any taxes, will be raised significantly to pay for it all remain crucial to winning support from the people; including myself.

The president and Congress can incorporate as many cost-cutting measures as they can, Congressman; but it misses the heart of the debate. Trimming around the edges won't chop down the tree; and as optimistic as some are about the potential the reconciliation process has for reducing the deficit, it's not as benign a tactic as they believe. Democrats used to remember that.

Thank you for your time, Congressman.

Sincerely,

Stephen Monteith

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