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Health Care Reform: Will Real Statesmen and Women Stand Up?

11/19/2009 05:48 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Health Care Reform: Will Real Statesmen and Stateswomen Please Stand Up?
What would Senators Joe Lieberman, Ben Nelson, Blanche Lincoln, and Mary Landrieu do if they were offered the choice between spending their last dime and incurring debt to provide needed medical care for themselves and their loved ones--or not spending for medical care? It is a safe bet that they would choose to pay, regardless of the cost, for the best treatment possible. Do these senators believe they and their families are more worthy of quality, affordable health care than the American citizens they serve?

Instead of dancing to the tune of the avaricious insurance lobby, Lieberman, Nelson and company should put themselves in the shoes of the uninsured Americans they were elected to serve. How can they put a price on providing available health care? How can they put a price on saving lives? How can they put greed and personal ambition above human decency?

Republicans in Congress have made it clear that they are not in Washington to serve the people, but instead prefer to play politics while regarding American citizens as secondary to their own ambitions.

Democrats in Congress, though, have an opportunity to demonstrate that they are true statesmen and women--true public servants who put the welfare of the American people above personal gain and narrow interests. Today's Democratic-controlled Congress has the opportunity to complete the work begun by Democratic Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman by finally passing legislation to provide health care for all Americans.

Since the Senate's proposed bill would reduce the deficit by $127 billion over ten years, the conservative Democratic senators' contention that health care reform would add to the deficit is a hollow argument.

Conservative Democrats--along with the Independent Lieberman--who are standing in the way of health care reform are no better than obstructionist Republicans. They know the majority of Americans need and want health care reform and that 57 percent of Americans want a lower-cost public option, yet they hesitate about even voting for cloture. Lieberman has even threatened to join Republicans in a filibuster.

If it is true that Lieberman and Nelson are bending to the will of the insurance industry, alarm bells should be echoing across the country. If we have reached the point where the men and women who are elected to serve the American people are instead serving the insurance industry, American democracy is in real peril.

Any member of Congress who has accepted large sums of money from the insurance industry should be disqualified from voting on health care reform. This will not happen, of course, but it would be one way to eliminate the insurance lobby's influence on Congress.

Senators Landrieu and Lincoln who represent conservative states, Louisiana and Arkansas, fear that if they help pass reform, they will not be re-elected. The opposite is true. Landrieu and Lincoln are more likely to be re-elected to the Senate if they prove to be members of a Democratic Congress that passed historic health care legislation. Their votes would prove that they put the needs of the people first--and they would be remembered on Election Day as women who helped make history.

Just as conservatives of earlier generations tried to kill Social Security and Medicare legislation through ridiculous scare tactics, conservatives today are trying to kill health care reform by frightening the public through television ads and hate-filled demonstrations. They were wrong in 1935 and 1965, though, and they are wrong now.

It is a moral disgrace that in a nation as wealthy as the United States, a few members of Congress have the power to stand in the way of desperately needed health care reform. How can a Congress that did not hesitate to spend billions of dollars on the Iraq War, hesitate to spend a fraction of that amount on health care for American citizens?

There was a time when statesmen reached across the aisle to serve the common good. Now, we must ask statesmen and women of the Democratic Party to stand together, united, and make history on our behalf.

Will Senators Lincoln, Landrieu, Nelson and Lieberman prove to be history-making statesmen and women by voting for health care reform--or will they fall short? We shall see.