Friday, July 31, 2009

House Committee Reaches Deal

All that bluster yesterday about the House Energy and Commerce Committee compromising on a health care bill that weakened the public option and put more of the financial burden on middle-class families?

Apparently, that got through to the committee.

Committee chair Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) announced on Friday that the committee reached a deal that restored some of the tenets taken away on Thursday, including subsidies to help low- and middle-class families pay their health care premiums, the return of a strong public option and a provision to further cut drug costs.

Though light on details, Democrats of all political leanings in the House on Friday considered this a victory. The committee is expected to put the bill to a vote later in the afternoon. Considering the anger emanating through the party in the days and weeks prior, this bit of good news the day before the start of the August recess is welcome.

If nothing else, this gives the House some much-needed momentum. I've already mentioned how important the recess would be -- whichever side can dominate the message will likely be the side that wins -- and for members of the House to have something concrete to show their constituents over the next month is vital.

It's certainly a lot farther than where the Senate has gotten, where the Finance Committee still can't seem to iron out details. That's probably because Montana's Max Baucus -- a Republican in Democrat's clothing -- is more concerned with making sure his right-wing and health insurance buddies are protected.

Dude can't even decide how to vote on Supreme Court justice nominee Sonia Sotomayor. I think Baucus would be doing us all a favor if he just gave up the charade and called himself a Republican.

Still, of the five bills floating around the House and Senate, the Finance Committee bill is the only one that's stalled. Considering it's also widely considered the weakest of the five bills, that might not be such a bad thing. The agreement on the House Energy and Commerce bill is huge, not only for momentum, but for the public's confidence.

If you listen to certain members of Congress -- or almost anyone in the mainstream media -- this thing is automatically doomed to failure. But members of the House have something positive to point to when they talk to their constituents, as do members of the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. The White House will also have something positive to point to, and you know President Obama will use the recess to travel the country and push his message for reform.

The Republicans and insurance companies won't stay silent over the next month, so it's up to those who are for true health care reform to be even louder. The American people proved how loud their voices can be in November, when they elected Obama to the White House and gave the Democrats huge majorities in both ends of Congress.

Now, we need to get loud again. The importance of health care reform cannot be understated, and it cannot fail this time. If it does, not only will the political landscape in Washington change, but the hope Obama preached on the campaign trail might very well die.

And we can't let that happen.

No comments:

Post a Comment