Monday Must-Reads

I’m in the mood to fire you up so here goes. First, SEIU President Andy Stern on HuffPo on how there’s no such thing as a Republican filibuster. Democrats hold the power and must deliver:

And for decades now, Democratic Senators have raised campaign funds by promising that with 60 Democratic Senators, they could deliver real change for our country. Last fall, we were all repeatedly asked, “Dig deeper! We just need 60 – we have never been closer.”

Well Democrats, it’s show time. America elected the 60 you asked for, and America is waiting for results.

But here is the problem with reaching the magical 60: if Democrats can’t deliver the meaningful reforms that they have repeatedly promised, then what’s the point of 60? Why should anyone believe that knocking on doors, making calls, or donating another dollar changes anything if with 60 votes they cannot deliver real reforms?

The Democrats must not squander their 60-vote majority. And after the promises that were made to the American people, there is no excuse for a single member of the Democratic caucus to stand in the way of every member having the opportunity to vote for the health insurance reform this country needs.

Also on HuffPo, Bob Creamer adds more detailed perspective:

Remember that to pass a bill in the Senate you only need 51 votes – or 50 votes plus the tie-breaking vote of the Vice President. We do not need every Democrat to pass a bill. But every one of them must vote to end debate on a bill to allow an up or down vote to take place, since ending debate in the Senate requires 60 votes.

If some Democrats disagree with the content of the bill – or oppose a public option – so be it. They should vote no on final passage. But they should never side with the Republicans on a procedural vote to prevent an up or down, majority vote on the substance of the issue.

Frankly, if a Democrat votes against the party on a procedural vote and empowers the Republicans to block a vote on the party’s top domestic priority, the caucus should strip that Senator of all of the power that comes from being part of the Majority Party – including committee chairmanships.

It is one thing to oppose the substance of a bill. It’s another to oppose the Party Leadership on a procedural motion and block the will of the majority. That kind of breach of party discipline makes it impossible for a majority party to govern. On procedural votes members of a majority party have to stick together or they might as well not be in the majority – they hand the reins over to the minority.

So what’s the hold up? Try all that successful health insurance lobbying. From the LA Times:

The specifics of the healthcare legislation are still being hashed out on Capitol Hill, and key details will evolve in the days ahead. Even so, there is broad agreement that the final plan will, for the first time, require Americans to buy health coverage, with taxpayer subsidies for millions who cannot afford it.

For the health insurance industry, that means millions of new paying customers. What’s more, there are likely to be no limits on what insurers can charge, while at the same time the plan is expected to limit competition from any new national government insurance plan that lawmakers create.

These anticipated wins — from an initiative that has at times been portrayed as doomsday for health insurers — is the result of a strategy developed by one of Washington’s savviest lobbyists, Karen Ignagni. Under Ignagni’s leadership, the industry group America’s Health Insurance Plans adopted the goal of universal coverage while setting out to shape it in a way that benefited insurers — a crucial move that aligned their interests with those of other groups, including consumers and hospitals.

Insurers poured campaign donations into the coffers of key sympathetic members of the House and Senate, and loaded up on lobbyists. And when Obama and other Democrats began attacking the industry, insurers made a strategic choice not to walk away from the negotiating table.

“While so many in this town have been playing checkers, Karen has been playing chess,” said Mark Merritt, a veteran lobbyist who heads the Pharmaceutical Care Management Assn.

Happy Monday.

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