Huffpost Politics
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Harold Pollack Headshot

If you want health reform, call your Representative and your Senator. Tell them to get this done!

Posted: Updated:

Health reform is in the balance. Congressional leaders and the administration are trying hard to break the log jam. Since the State of the Union, President Obama has been out there fighting to get this done.

The good guys really need help from us. They need every one of us to contact our Senator and Representative to urge them to press on to get health reform done. Even members whom we believe are fully supportive of reform need to be contacted. After the Massachusetts special election, no one can be taken for granted.

Both blue dogs and progressives need to know that Democrats are united in pushing for a two-track strategy in which in some order: (a) the House passes the Senate bill, and (b) the Senate uses majority-vote reconciliation rules to address House concerns with an imperfect but valuable Senate bill. Almost everyone fighting for health reform--activists, policy experts, and policymakers--agrees this two-track strategy is the proper course. It will be difficult to actually do given the close margins in the two houses, and given the uncertainty created by Scott Brown's election.

If you are reading HuffPo, you are probably progressive. The message to progressive House and Senate Democrats is simple. House passage of the Senate bill would cover 30 million people, would pass $196 billion down the income scale to help make insurance more affordable, and would provide essential protections to millions of people living with chronic illnesses or disabilities.

We know the Senate bill is imperfect. Many of its defects can either be fixed through reconciliation or over time as has occurred with Medicare Part D and Medicaid expansions to low-income mothers and children. Many of us have ties to progressive members. We need to send a strong message for them to sign onto this bill. That is the progressive thing to do.

To moderate and conservative Democrats, the Senate bill contains critical elements of delivery reform and cost control to bend the cost curve over time. If this bill fails, many of these elements could never be passed piecemeal. They attract too much interest group opposition and too much public anxiety exemplified by the "Death Panel" debate. Moreover, the failure of health reform would send a message that the political penalties associated with fiscally responsible legislation are too high, and that it's better to go with fiscally irresponsible, politically appealing alternatives such as President Bush's Medicare Part D proposals.

To Senators, it is especially important to convey the importance of reconciliation in giving House members the space and the public support they need to get this done. House members being asked to swallow a very imperfect bill and to yield unusual deference to their Senate colleagues on a historic bill that House members spent many months refining in their own chamber. They cannot take this step without Senate help.

To Democrats across the spectrum, the political message is the same: Democrats have already paid whatever political price they will pay for supporting the House and Senate bills. Not passing anything would be a disaster.

Now is the moment.