Friday, February 26, 2010

Mr. President, If I May Say A Few Words...

Nobody should be surprised President Obama's health care summit resulted in him pledging to move on, with or without Republicans. That's the deal when you're in power and you want to get something done: your opposition can get on the bus, get off the bus, or get under the bus, but the bus is still rolling on. If this summit was useful for anything, it was a gut check. The GOP still supports starting over -- which is my position -- and the Democrats want to get something passed.

Despite the president's wish that it not unfold as political theater, that's exactly what we got. That's what we get any time we put cameras in front of a discussion among the president and lawmakers from both parties, especially in an election year. Everybody is in campaign mode. But at least nobody shouted "You lie!"

I didn't get a place at the table. But if I had...

"Mr. President, none of us in this room is against the concept of health care reform. But what bothers me greatly is the urgency some in this room have to push a bill -- any bill -- through, so we can say Washington is getting something done. Our success, I argue, should not be measured in terms of what we do, but the benefits this nation reaps from our actions. I believe we need to slow down, resist the fear of being called a 'do-nothing Congress,' and approach this issue in small, digestible measures we can read, debate, and understand before taking a vote on them. I know that's not the way we usually do things around here, but if we're committed to change, we need to change too. Whatever happened to leading by example? Let's break this bill up into pieces, starting with insurance reform. We can then move on to tort reform, drug exports, and the other parts of the puzzle.

"We cannot talk about using shortcuts and back-door methods to pass this bill. I find 'reconciliation' to be the most ironic term in discussion of this legislation because, in truth, it will reconcile nothing. It will stoke more partisanship, more anger, and more disappointment from the people who voted to put us here. We work for them, not for our parties. I also do not want to hear any more threats of filibusters unless those making the threats are ready to stand on the floor and actually make those endless speeches we've heard so much about but rarely heard. I know this is easy for me to say because I have no allegiance to either Democrats or Republicans, and I don't have to run for re-election.

"Mr. President, I know you made a lot of promises during the campaign to fix health care. I want to help you. But it is my honest fear that the health care debate is becoming the when-are-we-gonna-get-this-darn-thing-passed debate. Moderation is not a sin, even though some people are trying to con you into thinking it is. Do not be fooled. Let's take our time and do this right. Lives are literally on the line."

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