Labor: Pass the senate bill, then fix it

With the election of Scott Brown to the US Senate, the Republicans now have the 41 votes they need to block a vote on health insurance reform were it to return to the Senate.  Keep in mind that the House of Representatives have the option of passing the Senate bill as is, however, thus sending it directly to the President for his signature, and thus avoiding the need for another vote in the Senate.  If you are a netizen of the blogosphere, it's possible that you have been picking up the vibe that organized labor is against passing the Senate health care bill as is.  Well, that's not true.

Andy Stern, President of the Service Employees International Union, the country's single largest and fastest growing union, penned a column at the Huffington Post today urging for a swift passage of the Senate bill through the House.  Once that happens, he wants the Congressional to use all of its power to push through ways to fix the bill right afterwords.

For Pat Dejong and the millions of working families like her's across the country, today is no different than yesterday when a Democratic senator held Ted Kennedy's old seat. Pat DeJong will still wake up in Libby, Montana. She'll still mourn the loss of her husband and the family ranch they lost because of his medical bills. And, Pat will still go to the bedside of her patients each day, still lacking coverage of her own.

So what's next for Pat? What's next for a country frustrated by leaders who seem to be governing out of timidity versus conviction?

Step one: The House should pass the Senate's health insurance reform bill - with an agreement that it will be fixed, fixed right, and fixed right away through a parallel process.
Talking Points Memo reports that the AFL-CIO has what they call a 'functionally identical' position:
The AFL-CIO has a functionally similar, but tonally tougher take. "We don't want the House to pass the Senate bill as is," AFL-CIO spokesman Eddie Vale tells me. "It needs to be paired with a Senate [bill]--through reconciliation--that makes fixes."
Such a pairing, according to Vale, should be "simultaneous, or almost side by side."
This is what I have argued for for a while now, if there was an impasse between the House and the Senate given the 60 vote requirement in the Senate for anything that cannot be passed through reconciliation.  I have heard every complaint about it from "the Senate bill sucks balls anyway so screw it and move to reconciliation for just the stuff that can be done through it" to "no one will ever fix it if we let the Senate bill go through" to the rather conservative argument that "one should not use reconciliation for legislation of this proportion even if it can be" and everything in between.  It seems that Scott Brown's election - at much too high a cost - is focusing the attention of the netroots as well as organized labor on this path.  It is in fact, a very sensible path to real reform.  Consider that the Senate bill happens to have a few progressive provisions of its own, and whatever the problems are with it can be fixed through the process of budget reconciliation.  Progressives and labor unions aren't the only ones looking upon it kindly now, Senate Budget Committee Chairman and Conserva-Dem Kent Conrad (D-ND) has now opened the door to reconciliation, signaling the willingness of the Senate to cooperate if the House chooses that track.

If you believe, as I do, that we must pass health insurance reform, there is only one way to do it now.  The House must pass the Senate bill as is, and start working on a simultaneous track to make it better by using the budget reconciliation process.  So you need to call your member of the House.  You can look up the contact information of your member at (you can also look up there who your member is) or by calling the Capital switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and asking for your representative.  Once you get their office, politely tell whoever is answering the call that you are a constituent, and you want your representative to vote for the Senate health care bill as is, and then to immediately start working on new legislation to fix it through reconciliation.  Please be polite when you are making this call.  The person answering the call is just the person answering the call.  Do NOT vent your frustration on them.  They are ordinary Americans like you and I, and they do not need to be the subject of your wrath.

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