In a move that seems designed to push Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) on health care reform, the North Dakota Democratic Party voted two weeks ago to make the public option for insurance coverage a stated objective of its platform.
At a little-noticed policy committee meeting on September 19, state Democratic officials passed a resolution affirming their commitment to "universal single payer health care legislation." As a fallback option, the resolution read, the officials supported the creation of a government-run plan for insurance.
In an effort to apply the pressure to their representatives in Congress, the party also sent letters to the offices of Democratic Sens. Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan, as well as Rep. Earl Porneroy, alerting them to the passed resolution.
The letter from Joe Aronson, executive director of the North Dakota Democrats, reads as follows:
On April 4, 2008, the Democratic-NPL Party met in Grand Forks for its biennial State Convention. During the Convention, the party adopted a platform and resolutions... Under the 'National' Issues' heading, item number 27, the party called 'upon Congress to enact universal single payer health care legislation.' I write to remind the delegation that this is your state party's official position on healthcare reform.
The resolution adopted by the Policy Committee on September 19, 2009, included an amendment that authorized me to request that if you do not support the party's official 2008 resolution preference, we would respectfully ask that you consider support a 'public option'
On behalf of the Democratic-NPL Party, I thank you for your consideration.
A member of the North Dakota Democratic Party said that the resolution was a statement of principle on health care reform that reflected the overwhelming consensus among Democrats in the state. "No one voted against it," said Chad Nodland, who sits on the executive committee for the state party. "And by the end of the meeting there were probably 60 to 75 people still there."
But the resolution also seems like a clear effort to exert pressure on North Dakota's congressional delegation. Conrad remains one of the highest-profile holdouts on the public option, insisting that the provision does not have the votes to pass the Senate and makes for bad policy. His obstinacy is frustrating Democrats in his home state.
"I don't understand the votes that have gone on," said Nodland, in reference to the debate in the Senate Finance Committee. "What I'm saying is, I can't put together what I've watched with what has been explained to me. I'm frustrated. I wish that what we were seeing were different [from Conrad] than what we've been seeing."
This is the second time that state party Democrats have put the pressure on a senior senator from that state to back the public option. This past weekend, the Nebraska Democratic Party passed a resolution making the provision a part of their platform -- in a vote that seemed designed to serve notice to Sen. Ben Nelson, (D-Neb.)
Read the North Dakota Democratic Party's letter to Sen. Conrad:
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