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Lieberman Pressured By Yalies To Back Health Care Reform

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The local campaign pressuring Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) to support health care reform accelerated on Thursday, after a group of more than 650 Yale University students, faculty and staff urged him to reconsider his threat to filibuster legislation.

In two letters to the Connecticut Independent -- who is an alumnus of Yale -- the group takes the complimentary rather than the threatening approach. Applauding Lieberman for his "tireless work on behalf of the people of Connecticut," as well as his efforts to "revitalize economically depressed areas" in the state, they implore him to be on the right side of history in the current legislative debate.

"We, the undersigned members of the Yale University community, urge you to reconsider your stated opposition to a health care bill including a public option," reads the first letter, signed by 650 students, faculty and staff at the university. "We especially urge you not to vote against cloture of a bill including a public option. It is time to pass comprehensive health care reform to reduce costs and premiums, expand coverage, increase competition, and ban discrimination based on pre-existing conditions. A public option is an essential element of such reform."

"Health care reform deserves an up or down vote on the Senate floor," reads a second letter signed by 15 student groups, including Yale American Medical School Association and Jews for Justice at Yale. "The millennial generation turned out in record numbers in 2008, supporting candidates across the country who advocated universal, affordable health care. Now, for the first time in our lives, a house of Congress has passed meaningful health care reform."

"We ask that you stand with your supporters in 2006, and with millions of Americans across the country, and allow the Senate to vote on health care reform with a strong public option. Please do not stand in the way of giving Americans an opportunity for health care reform that is so desperately needed."

The tack taken by these students and groups is a decidedly different form of pressure than that which has been applied to the senator within Washington D.C. -- appealing to Lieberman's better angels rather than levying threats of retribution. Last week, local Connecticut rabbis held a candlelight vigil outside Lieberman's home, urging him to understand the moral imperative of passing reform.

Whether this proves to be a more effective form of persuasion will be seen shortly, as a cloture vote on health care reform could be just weeks away. It is notable, however, that when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) held a health care meeting on Wednesday with Democratic senators sitting on the fence, he excluded Lieberman from the group.

LETTER ONE:

Dear Senator Lieberman,

We, the undersigned members of the Yale University community, urge you to reconsider your stated opposition to a health care bill including a public option. We especially urge you not to vote against cloture of a bill including a public option. It is time to pass comprehensive health care reform to reduce costs and premiums, expand coverage, increase competition, and ban discrimination based on pre-existing conditions. A public option is an essential element of such reform.

A recent public opinion poll found that 68% of likely Connecticut voters support a public option, including 73% of independents. Only 21% oppose such an option. Though CBO projects only a small minority of Americans will opt for coverage under a public plan, its existence will foster competition amongst private insurance companies, helping to ensure a basic level of quality and affordability.

Senator, you have long been a champion of expanding and improving health care. Through introduction of the Accelerating Cures Act to streamline biomedical research and the FairCare Act to address health care inequalities in minority communities, through proposals like MediChoice and MediKids to expand coverage, co-sponsorship of the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act, and in your efforts to improve mental health services to our veterans, you have championed a cause supported not only by your own conscience but by the people of Connecticut. And in the 2006 campaign you expressly advocated for universal health care.

As faculty, staff, and students at Yale University, we hope you will remember and honor this history of advocacy, and continue to fight on our behalf. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Brett Edkins
Yale Law School, J.D. Candidate, 2011

Alison Frick
Yale Law School, J.D. Candidate, 2012

Alex Iftimie
Yale Law School, J.D. Candidate, 2011

Full signatures list: http://www.gopetition.com/online/31846.html

LETTER TWO:

Dear Senator Lieberman:

As constituents, we have always been impressed with your tireless work on behalf of the people of Connecticut. As students at your alma mater, Yale University, we have seen you as a reminder and exemplar of our responsibility to give back to our community through public service, and to keep strong to our ideals. Perhaps most importantly, as concerned and engaged citizens, we have long admired your commitment to a fair and just society, an issue of great importance to our organizations and our members.

Our generation has seen firsthand the disastrous results when government becomes more concerned with helping the powerful than protecting everyday people. Whether it is your support of the right of workers to organize, your work to revitalize economically depressed areas, or your efforts to provide affordable energy and housing, you have always stood as a strong defender of the middle class.

Every generation has an opportunity to make a difference, to stand up and make the world a better place. We believe that universal access to health care is one of the defining issues of our time. Our willingness to fight to ensure that all people have affordable access to health care says much about who we are as a country and what it is that we value.

Generations in the past have risen to the challenge, creating social security, ensuring the protection of all citizens' civil rights and providing health care to the elderly and the needy. For our generation, universal health care is that opportunity, our chance to improve the lives of all Americans and participate in the shared project of defining our country's values.

We were particularly heartened by your support for universal health care, and your promise during the 2006 election to deliver affordable health care and universal coverage to the people of Connecticut.

That is why we were so surprised, disappointed, and truly disheartened by your recent suggestion you would not allow a vote on health care reform that includes a strong public option. As we see it, the public option provides the best means of lowering health care costs, maintaining individual choice, and reducing the deficit, a burden that will otherwise fall on the shoulders of our generation and that of our children.

Health care reform deserves an up or down vote on the Senate floor.

The millennial generation turned out in record numbers in 2008, supporting candidates across the country who advocated universal, affordable health care. Now, for the first time in our lives, a house of Congress has passed meaningful health care reform.

We ask that you stand with your supporters in 2006, and with millions of Americans across the country, and allow the Senate to vote on health care reform with a strong public option. Please do not stand in the way of giving Americans an opportunity for health care reform that is so desperately needed.

Sincerely,

Black Students Alliance at Yale
College Democrats of Connecticut
Jews for Justice at Yale
Movimiento Estudiantil Chicana/o de Aztlan de Yale
New Haven Action Fund
Students for a New American Politics
Yale American Medical School Association
Yale Amnesty International
Yale College Democrats
Yale Divinity School Committee for Social Justice
Yale Divinity School Seminarians for Reproductive Justice
Yale Law Democrats
Yale School of Management Democrats
Yale Students for Dodd
Yale Universities Allied for Essential Medicines

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