09/24/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Real Democrats Standing Strong for American Working Families

One week ago we started a Netroots-wide action at Blue America, inspired by Darcy Burner's closing keynote speech at Netroots Nation, thanking the 65 stalwart progressives who have promised -- in letters to Speaker Pelosi and HHS Secretary Sebelius and to activists from Firedoglake -- to stick with the public option, even after the bribe-besotted Senate tries to kill it in the Conference Report this fall. Since then, more than 6,500 donors have contributed almost $400,000.

Every member on the list has been given over $3,000 from grateful donors, but some have received more than that. People have asked me why some Congress members -- like Barney Frank ($12,061), Lloyd Doggett ($9,396), Anthony Weiner ($10,135), Dennis Kucinich (7,759), and Donna Edwards ($7,577) -- have wound up with so much more money than some of the others. After all, 60 of them signed Grijalva's letter to Sebelius clearly stating that they:

[S]tand in strong opposition to your statement that the public option is "not the essential element" of comprehensive reform. The opportunity to improve access to health care is a onetime opportunity. Americans deserve reform that is real -- not smoke and mirrors. We cannot rely solely on the insurance companies' good faith efforts to provide for our constituents. A robust public option is essential, if we are to ensure that all Americans can receive health care that is accessible, guaranteed and of high-quality. To take the public option off the table would be a grave error; passage in the House of Representatives depends upon inclusion of it. ... [A] final proposal for the President's signature, MUST contain a public option.

Generally speaking the members with the most donations and the highest totals are the ones who have spoken out the most forcefully during the recess. Barney Frank's contributions shot to number one after a Larry King Live show went viral on YouTube (over a million views), showing him answering a crazed and delusional tea-bagger comparing President Obama to Hitler. GOP propaganda whore Rush Limbaugh pushed Barney's donations even higher when he went off on a snide, homophobic tirade the next day.

Similarly, the way Lloyd Doggett handled a disruptive mob of tea-baggers at his town hall meeting early in the month won him a great deal of admiration from progressives, not just in Texas but across America. Anthony Weiner's aggressive and spirited defense of the public option on Morning Joe bumped him through the roof.

Donna Edwards' unimpeachable record of leadership has been an inspiration for progressives inside and outside of Congress. Last week she reiterated her commitment to real health care reform:

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 health care 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 health care 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 health care 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.

On Friday, Steve Kornacki at PolitickerNY emphasized how powerful Jerry Nadler's message on health care has been, and Nadler is assigning credit to the grassroots efforts inspired by Darcy Burner's epic speech:

"If they try to get a bill through the Senate with 60 votes without a public option, it won't pass the House," [Nadler] said. "We will make sure it doesn't pass the House."

Other House progressives have been making similar threats, and Nadler admits he's not sure how seriously the House leadership and the White House have been taking them -- until now.

He described a conference call this week for all House Democrats in which "people who you'd be surprised at" spoke up and told Pelosi they'd reject any bill without a public option. It was only a few weeks ago, after she struck her deal with the Blue Dogs, that Pelosi seemed to sneer at the threats of progressives.

But now, Nadler said, "I think she's probably going to take that more seriously."

"We've got to draw the line somewhere," he added. "And this is where we're drawing it. And we have to draw it here. We probably should have drawn it a little closer in."

So what happens, I asked Nadler, if the House is ultimately presented with a bill with a cop-op provision instead of a public option -- and if the White House and House leadership then tell progressives that it was the best they could do and that if it fails, the Obama presidency might be sunk?

"They can't allow it to come to that situation, because I'll vote no," he replied. "They cannot allow it to get there, and that's what we're telling them now. If it comes to that, enough members, I think, will vote no. And they certainly don't want to test that."

Strong stuff, huh? Yesterday's biggest recipient of Netroots money on our page was Maxine Waters, who sent an unequivocal message to the Democratic leadership that the line in the sand is for real. She spoke at a town hall meeting in a part of L.A. where tea-baggers and night-riders don't venture, and she made it crystal clear that without a public option she will oppose whatever the insurance Industry and their congressional shills try shoving down our throats.

I doubt there's much Emanuel can do to her -- except take her off the White House Christmas card list. Addressing President Obama directly, she reminded him:

The people of this country elected you and gave you a Democratic majority in the House and the Senate. ... Yes, we know that you are a nice man, that you want to work with the opposite side of the aisle. But there comes a time when you need to drop that and move forward. We're saying to you, Mr. President, "Be tough. Use everything that you've got. Do what you have to do. And we have your back."

As for the corrupt members of the House of Lords, I don't think Rep. Waters will have their backs any time soon. Waters said:

Not only are we going to do everything we can to organize and put pressure on the senators -- some of whom are Neanderthals -- we're going to say to the president, "We want you to use every weapon in your basket in order to get those senators to do what they should be doing."

So if you haven't said thanks yet, I'd recommend today would be a good day to think about Maxine Waters, Jerry Nadler, Donna Edwards, Barney Frank, and any of the other members you've heard speaking out forcefully about the public option. You can donate to one or two or as many as you'd like of the 65 members of the House who have promised to stand firm at the Blue America page.

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