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Donna Edwards On Health Care Reform

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We have quite a few progressives in Congress supporting the same efforts that we're supporting: getting real health care reform for ordinary working families. George Lakoff put it succinctly and elegantly yesterday:

The narrative is simple: Insurance company plans have failed to care for our people. They profit from denying care. Americans care about one another. An American plan is both the moral and practical alternative to provide care for our people.

Making the sausage right isn't nearly as simple and has nothing whatsoever to do with elegance. But let me tell you this, we have 65 members of the House of Representatives who have taken the highly unusual step of telling their leadership, and through their leadership, the president they respect, admire and count on, that they will oppose any attempt at health care legislation that does not include, at the minimum, a robust public option. Other members are just as strongly in our camp but, for one reason of other, want to preserve their ability to maneuver and aren't signing on to any public pledges. I promise you-- as Anthony Weiner famously did-- the number who would oppose a sell out to the Insurance Industry CEOs and their lackeys and lobbyists-- is closer to 100 than it is to 60.

Beyond "just" having the voters however, we have a few leaders who are the powerful advocates behind closed doors, moving the process along, steeling the backbones of the tepid and nervous, when they need steeling, and providing the intellectual firepower when people lose their way from time to time. No one-- two simple words that I chose with care-- has been a better advocate for working families inside progressive circles than Maryland Congresswoman Donna Edwards.

Blue America was the original online home-away-from-home for Donna Edwards when she first ran for Congress in 2006 against corrupt and reactionary Democratic hack (now a K Street lobbyist), Al Wynn. Our PAC raised more money and more love for her than for anyone else running for the House. And since becoming a member she's had the best-- meaning most progressive-- voting record of any member of the House. She has been more than an ally; she has been an advocate, not because someone pressures her or bullies her but because she is a leader and has been for many, many years. Her beliefs are the beliefs many of us share, beliefs that are the glue that holds us together. If no one is perfect, there is no one as close to that as Donna Edwards.

No doubt you've noticed that Blue America is hosting a netroots-wide campaign, Standing Up For The Public Option which has raised around $350,000 from more than 5,500 donors so far for the 65 Congressmembers who are vowing to stick with the public option even after the House of Lords tries to sell American families out to the insurance business at the inevitable conference committee meeting this fall. Donna has among the top dozen number of donors and was one of the first members to cross the $5,000 mark in contributions. Last night I asked her how this battle is looking from her perspective inside the halls of Congress. She was happy to craft something for me to share:

The stakes for comprehensive health care reform are high. It's time for our rhetoric to match our policy. That means that we must be clear about what constitutes comprehensive reform.

Over the past several weeks, I have held numerous interviews, (print, radio, television, internet), town hall meetings and other public fora discussing health care reform. I am excited that real people actually want bold, comprehensive reform and they want to understand the details. This response has invigorated me as never before.

I just want to be absolutely clear-- comprehensive reform must include a robust public health insurance option. Otherwise, we're just tinkering around the edges and run the risk of giving even more power to the already too powerful insurance and pharmaceutical industries and their overpaid CEOs. I am unequivocal, unwavering, and unapologetic about my support of a robust public option-- in and outside of the Congress. Indeed I appeared on the CBS Evening News just this week urging Democrats to move forward on healthcare reform, including a robust public option, with or without Republican support since they seem more interested in the politics of taking down President Obama than healthcare for millions of Americans.

It is important that we stay focused on getting a robust public option included in the House version of the bill-- nothing watered down. As a progressive member of the House of Representatives, I can't spend time guessing or speculating about what the Senate will do. I do know that if we don't do our work to get a strong bill out of the House, we won't be able to beg, borrow or steal a robust public option from the Senate. And, the naysayers and opponents of reform know this-- they know what's at stake. That's why they've tried to use August to kill reform. With your help, it hasn't worked and it won't work.

To accomplish our goal, we must be vigorous advocates for a public option that uses the Medicare provider network, starts immediately without triggers, and has a payment system that encourages quality patient care. We're almost there, and that's why it will take your voices outside of Congress and those of us inside to encourage our colleagues and our President to be courageous to the end. I hope you will continue to join me in this fight for comprehensive health care reform.

No more tinkering.

No more dictates by the big insurers and pharmaceutical companies.

No more deceptions and distractions.

Let's fight for a robust public option to ensure quality, affordable healthcare and lower costs for everyone and provide transparency and accountability. I know we can do this. I will keep fighting, but I need you to keep fighting with me.

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