05/24/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

What Change Looks Like

Update to this diary: At approximately 9pm EST (7pm MST) Thursday, history was made -- the Congress of the United States of America passed the final addition to the health reform package!


With the stroke of a pen, after a year of labor and a century of inequality, we have reformed our health care system. No longer is it a pre-existing condition to be a woman, no longer will young people go without insurance just after college, no longer will seniors make trade-offs between utility bills and medication, no longer can an insurance company refuse to pay in your moment of need, and no longer will our friends, neighbors, and family members be without health insurance. We have much to celebrate today, and yet, our work is not done.

After signing health reform into law on Tuesday, President Barack Obama said,

This isn't radical reform, but it is major reform. This legislation will not fix everything that ails our broken health care system, but it moves us decisively in the right direction. This is what change looks like.

Americans who voted for change will continue to work, and to fight together until the dream is realized.

In a final act of desperation, opponents of reform are poised to do whatever it takes to prevent the next step in fixing America's health care system from happening -- a reconciliation bill (the "fix-it" bill) which will assure strong, affordable health care for all Americans. Democrats, especially those who are truly committed to progress, need to stand arm-in-arm to stop the obstructionists in their tracks. The American people voted for change and are counting on us to deliver more on that promise. We need to stand strong with Democratic members of Congress to support them in the final days of a century-old fight.

Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado has taken up the torch, and is committed to building that future with us. As a direct result of his vision, dedication, and leadership, the public option is still alive and moving forward. He has pledged to continue pushing for a vote in the Senate on the public option, and Majority Leader Harry Reid has agreed to his request -- promising a vote in the coming months.

The great "Liberal Lion," Sen. Ted Kennedy, knew what President Obama and Sen. Bennet know - that some action is better than no action. Following his passing after a long struggle with cancer, Kennedy's wife Vicki wrote in the Washington Post,

Ted often said that we can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. He also said that it was better to get half a loaf than no loaf at all, especially with so many lives at stake. That's why, even in his final days, he never stopped fighting for comprehensive health-care reform.

Obstructionists from all sides are launching an assault on health care reform; they want us to turn our backs on courageous leaders like Senator Bennet. They want us to do their dirty work. They will use every tool available to them to delay change and drum up fear -- they will use manipulations and deceit in a shameful attempt to win.

This morning, the reconciliation bill was sent back to the House of Representatives for a minor procedural fix. Obstructionists are asking, "As long as it is back in the house, why not add other amendments to it?" Doing that would risk the bill not getting voted on in the House of Representatives before Congress adjourns for Easter and Passover, and the bill would risk losing supporters as the days pass before it is debated again. It is imperative for the survival of the important reforms in the reconciliation bill that it passes through Congress as quickly as possible. Other improvements in health reform should be passed in separate bills.

Such tricks to interfere with this process have included presenting amendments that Democrats would ordinarily favor, like that of Sen. Tom Coburn, R-OK, who wants a vote on an amendment to prohibit coverage of Viagra for sex offenders! Democrats must resist all amendments, and stop delay tactics one-by-one, including further procedural objections, because any change to the fix-it bill -- even adding a comma or quotation mark, will send it back to the House again -- a complication Democrats cannot afford while the reform-clock is ticking.

One of those amendments is especially tempting -- inserting the public option. As a full-time community organizer, I am as committed to the public option as much as anyone -- perhaps even more so. My own extended family will benefit greatly from reform; it is an answer to our prayers. The public option would create competition that will lower prices, allowing my friends and family members who have suffered during the economic downturn, particularly those living in the Detroit area, to purchase insurance at more affordable rates. Unfortunately, this is not the time to push for the public option if we want all of the other benefits in the final package to become law. We must pass the reconciliation bill with no amendments, and we must do so quickly. Then, after this bill is passed, we will stand together again and fight for the public option in a separate piece of legislation.

Some progressive leaders have decided to work against Sen. Kennedy's vision of health care reform, and are playing into the hands of Republicans and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Senator Bennet's primary opponent, Andrew Romanoff, and media personalities like David Sirota and Jane Hamsher, despite pleading from pragmatic Democrats, have decided to stand with the obstructionists and support an effort that could derail reconciliation. Andrew Romanoff appears to be so willing to sabotage Senator Bennet's accomplishments, he is willing to risk health care reform for millions of Americans to score a few political points in his campaign. I respectfully urge Andrew Romanoff to take a sincere stand on the public option by following the lead of the US Senate, and advocate for separate, stand-alone legislation on the public option after the reconcilation bill is passed.

Countless groups in Colorado have issued statements calling for the passage of the Senate's reconciliation package as it is, including AFSCME, AFL-CIO, SEIU, HCAN, and ProgressNow (a complete list is at the end of this article). They know that to push the public option right now would help the opponents of health reform, and jeopardize all we have worked so hard to achieve.

If we turn on ourselves and allow the Republicans to win, meaningful reform may be delayed for another four decades. We cannot let "the perfect be the enemy of the good". We must stay strong in this moment and know this is just one giant step that will require many smaller steps to the finish line. It is a foundation we can, and we will, continue to build upon.

Martin Luther King once said,

Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.

True supporters of health care reform and the public option will continue to rally behind leaders like Senator Michael Bennet to further improve America's health care system. We will do it with President Barack Obama, and for Senator Kennedy, and for the millions of Americans who cannot do it alone.


Colorado Groups That Support Passing Health Care Reconciliation Bill with No Amendments:
Colorado Consumer Health Initiative
Colorado Center on Law and Policy
Colorado Change that Works
Colorado AFL-CIO
Colorado Public Interest Research Group
Colorado Health Care for America Now
Main Street Alliance
Progress Now Colorado
Progressive Outreach - Colorado
SEIU Colorado

Alphabetic List of Organizations Signed on to the Senate's "NO Amendment Letter" as of March 24th, 2010

1199 SEIU
AIDS Action Council
AIDS Institute
AltaMed Health Services Corporation
Alliance for Children and Families
American Family Voices
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)
American Hospice Foundation
American Association of University Women (AAUW)
American Network of Community Options and Resources
American Nurses Association
American Medical Women's Association
American Medical Student Association (AMSA)
American Podiatric Medical Association
Americans Untied
AFSCME Local 3090
AFSCME District Council 36
Association for the Advancement of Psychology
The Association for Ambulatory Behavioral Healthcare
Bailey House - New York, NY
California Labor Federation
California Partnership
California School Employees Association, AFL-CIO
California Women's Agenda (CAWA)
Campaign for America's Future
The Campaign for College Affordability
Campaign for Community Change
Campus Progress Action
Catholics United
Center for American Progress Action Fund
Citizen Action of Wisconsin
Coalition of Labor Union Women
Community Action Partnership
Community Catalyst
Communications Workers of America (CWA)
Consumer Action
Consumers' CHECKBOOK/Center for the Study of Services
Community Service Society of New York
Corporation for Supportive Housing
Democracia Ahora
Direct Care Alliance
Easter Seals
Families USA
Family Violence Prevention Fund
Future Majority
Health Access California
Health Professionals and Allied Employees/AFT
HIV Medicine Association
Human Rights Campaign
International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW)
Jewish Women International
League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)
Maine Center for Economic Policy
Milwaukee Area Labor Council, AFL-CIO
NARAL Pro-Choice America
National Alliance on Mental Illness
National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity
National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association
National Alliance for Caregiving
National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors
National Association for Children's Behavioral Health
National Center for Transgender Equality
National Coalition for LGBT Health
National Council of Urban Indian Health
National Education Association (NEA)
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund
National Health Law Program
National Hispanic Council on Aging
National Physicians Alliance
National Policy and Advocacy Council on Homelessness (NPACH)
National Women's Law Center
National Youth Advocacy Coalition
North Carolina State AFL-CIO
Opinion Leaders Advocacy Network
People For the American Way
PHI Health Care for Health Care Workers
Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health (PRCH)
Progressive States Network
Planned Parenthood Federation of America
SEIU United Service Workers West
Small Business Majority
The Main Street Alliance
United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW)
United Neighborhood Centers of America
United States Student Association
U.S Public Interest Research Group
Western Regional Advocacy Project
Working America
Working Families Win
Young Democrats of America
Young Invincibles
Young People First