We hear a lot about the perils some members of Congress might face if they actually legislated with courage instead of fear. It takes courage to do the right thing, especially in this political climate, but when is it the right time to take a stand? And at what cost?
I was talking at lunch about the slightly weird idea of “political courage,” as in the idea that voting “yes” on a substantively good and substantively important but politically risky bill requires courage or guts. Sometimes political change really does take courage. To march in Selma, Alabama and have state troopers beat you up takes courage. To take to the streets in Iran and risk beatings or sniper fire takes courage. What happens if you take risky congressional votes? Well, you might lose. You might wind up like Nancy Boyda, pictured to the right. She won an election in 2006 to represent Kansas in the US House of Representatives. In 2008, she lost. And now she’s deputy assistant secretary of defense for manpower and personnel.
These cowards are more afraid of losing their seats than doing the job they were elected for which means passing legislation that the country needs at a possible expense to their own political lives. And as Matt says:
The point isn’t that these are wildly glamorous or awesome fates. But it’s hardly a nightmare of suffering. People tend to act as if the nation’s homeless shelters are littered with congressmen who lost their elections, but it just isn’t so. Win or lose these people have fine lives. Better lives than, say, those who are forced into bankruptcy by a loved one’s illness...
Mike Lux has a prescription for Democrats on how to handle HCR:
What they have to do is buck up their courage, stop acting out, and get the deal done.
The path, which has been suggested by many other people as well as me, is to simply pass the full Senate bill, and then immediately pass a clean-up bill through the reconciliation process, which requires only 51 votes in the Senate. The clean-up bill could include the provisions that progressives in the House and Senate, as well as wide majorities of the American people, have been demanding: the compromise on the benefits tax issue, more affordability for low and moderate income folks, ending insurers' exemption from anti-trust laws, a national insurance exchange instead of the weaker fragmented state run exchanges, and yes, some form of that public option that voters and activists keep saying we want. Doing this kind of double bill approach would allow all the good insurance regulations and other provisions in both the Senate and House versions of the bill that can't be passed through the reconciliation process because of Senate rules to still get done, while making the bill far more politically popular with voters and healing the rifts caused with the base because of all the bad compromises forced by Lieberman and other Democratic conservatives in the Senate.
If the Democrats turn from this path and give up on comprehensive reform after spending the last year working on it and coming so close, it would be one of the greatest tragedies in American history, a historic failure of nerve so unforgivable that I think it might literally break the party in two.
And Lux asks a great question in his piece. What voters does the Obama administration think they will pick up if they pass on health care completely?