The final push for passage of health care legislation has brought out the worst in many Democrats. It's been a depressing spectacle to watch, especially for those who want health care reform, but find little reform in the current bill to trumpet. This is mainly because there is no competition like a public option built into it, but also because the language against full reproductive health care makes it more difficult for women to get something that's so important to them. Democrats seem to be lining up against women over the bill.
On Monday, Speaker Pelosi convened a small, select new media roundtable to talk about the final health care push. It wasn't reported by the men who attended, except by one via Twitter, but there was not one single woman in attendance, which I confirmed. It was an embarrassing moment for the first female Speaker of the House who is pushing a health care bill that marginalizes women's reproductive care.
Today, The Hill is reporting that Speaker Pelosi is convening an all female meeting of House members. The topic for discussion was reported as "to be determined." One can only guess what this is about.
Then, MoveOn.org released an ad targeting Democrats on patriotism, shown above, channeling Liz Cheney and right-wing tactics to threaten them if they vote against the current health care bill. MoveOn's message: Vote for this health care bill or you're un-American!
The believe it or not aspect of all this is that Democrats are blithely willing to bargain women's rights away by codifying the Hyde Amendment instead of challenging it or making the health care bill at least neutral in this area. Whether it's Stupak-Pitts or the Senate Nelson language currently in the bill, the result is the same. A George Washington University Study lays it out:
One of the great challenges in insurance reform is the unintended consequences of regulation. The Stupak/Pitts Amendment is intended to reach only a specific part of the market. But the cumulative effect of the provision, in combination with existing federal laws governing Medicaid and federal employee health benefits (as well as the law of certain states) inevitably can be expected to move the entire health benefits industry away from its current inclusive coverage norms and toward a new norm of exclusion. The provisions of the legislation, as well as the technical challenges that arise in benefits administration, militate against the creation of a supplemental coverage market. Thus, if the result of national health reform is to move millions of women into a market that operates subject to the exclusion, then it is fair to predict that the entire market for coverage ultimately will be affected as a product tipping point is reached and virtually no supplemental market appears.
Shorter: As time goes by it will be too cumbersome and no longer cost effective for insurance carriers to offer full reproductive services to women, or a rider to procure what you need, which will further curtail these services. That's the point of the Stupak-Pitts-Nelson anti women coalition. The current health care bill that Democrats are pushing actually limiting rights women have won through the courts over years.
Then came the legislative game moves of "deem and pass," which Pelosi and Slaughter were once against but now they're for, having lost a case on the issue, but are now considering using this tactic to get the Senate bill passed in the House. A former staff director of the House Rules Committee doesn't think what either party does in this regard is good policy, which Karen Tumulty of Time magazine already reported on the self-executing rule, aka the "Slaughter rule."
For political reasons, elite Democrats from Robert Reich to Donna Brazile are circling the wagons making all sorts of declarations about the current legislation, while threatening Democrats with primary challenges who are considering voting against the bill.
Taking the health care fight even further, CNN reported yesterday that Senior Obama campaign official Steve Hildebrand is considering challenging a female House member in South Dakota, Herseth Sandlin, based on her vote on the health care bill, which is expected to be a no.
There isn't a Democrat, progressive or liberal who is against health care reform, real reform, that is, one that offers competition via a public option, but also doesn't codify the Hyde Amendment in health care language that takes women backwards from the rights we've already won through the courts.
What most people I'm hearing from don't want is the current legislation being forced through Congress. As for Pres. Obama and the current Democratic Party supporting women's rights, well, in the current bill being considered, they go a long way to prove they do not.
It doesn't have to be this way, as we all want real health care reform, starting with a public option, something that actually is worth all the pressure now being exerted to get passed.
The other reality we all have to face is that after remaining coy on women's reproductive rights, Pres. Obama has now finally shown his hand. He's willing to sell women out to get any health care bill that offers him a "win," regardless of whether it's actually good policy, which without a public option it is not.
Unfortunately, Democrats aren't listening to the majority of the American people or women protesting loudly against what they're doing. Women are once again being asked to take one for the team, but this one is for all time, reversing what we've already won. Democratic elites and their institutional partners who depend on big cash to survive have decided that to save Pres. Obama's presidency and Democratic face it's the current bill or bust.
However, come November, as polls stand today, it looks like Democrats are blindly heading toward bust. They can't say they weren't warned.
Taylor Marsh is a political analyst out of Washington, D.C.
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