I know we try to concentrate on local issues on Berkeleyside, but I’ve been distracted in the last couple of days at the sight of Democrats in Washington ducking for cover because they only have an 18-seat majority in the Senate and a 78-seat majority in the House. As some commentators have said, healthcare reform is on the 1-yard line, and all that is needed is a single House vote to pass it. So what’s the problem?

There is, of course, a local aspect of the issue. What is our congresswoman, Barbara Lee, going to do? I phoned her office in Washington to find out. Here’s the answer I got from the aide who answered the phone: “Healthcare is still a struggle. We’re listening to constituents to see what they think.”

I made my views clear, but pressed for further information. Doesn’t the congresswoman know what she’s going to do? I received a non-committal answer. Are they getting many calls? “Lots.” What were most of the callers advocating? “It looks like the Senate bill has support.”

The essential Talking Points Memo is trying to find out what representatives around the country are planning to do. I’m not sure yet what Lee will do, but I’m glad lots of constituents are pressing her to do the right thing. If you want to add your voice, the phone number for Lee’s office in the House is 202-225-2661.

Lance Knobel

Lance Knobel (co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine in Britain,...

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  1. One further thought: the desperate need to pass something, anything, no matter how flawed, reminds me of the October 2008 bailout debate. There was one bright shining moment where left and right united in the House and refused to rubber stamp THAT particularly odious piece of legislation. Barbara Lee voted against the bailout the first time; unfortunately the second time around she voted aye. In retrospect, wouldn’t it have been better if that awful bill hadn’t passed? I am quite certain that if progressives cave again and pass the Senate bill in toto that we’ll look back in the not at all distant future and ask ourselves, “what WERE they thinking? Was it really necessary to give the insurance companies their very own bailout–when they’re already rolling in profits?” I refer, of course, to today’s news story regarding United Health Care, who reported almost $1,000,000,000 in pure unadulterated profit during the 4th quarter of 2009 alone.

  2. Where to begin? The Senate bill is a big sloppy French kiss to the insurance companies from Joe Lieberman, Ben Nelson and friends, with love. No single-payer, no public option, no expanded Medicare, no imported generics…all we get is a tax on middle-class benefits and a bill sent to the poor and working-class to send their hard earned pennies to The Kindly and Beneficient Insurance Company Ltd, who will deign to supply you with sub-standard coverage or a penalty from the IRS…your choice! The bill could hardly be worse if the Republicans had crafted it.

    I’m a pro-tax zealot. Even though Denis Healey was a typical two-faced Labour Party apparatchik, he coined one of my favourite phrases: “squeeze the rich until the pips squeak.” That’s the path we should be taking to universal health care. The Senate bill, however, squeezes everyone BUT the rich, and adds insult to injury by funneling the proceeds to the insurance industry.

    Boy, I’m getting worked up. I think I’d better go and relax with some Isaac Deutscher or some Matthew Josephson.

  3. Lee is a good representative, even though she sometimes aligns with the right on issues (she voted a few months ago in favour of sanctions against Iran, for example). I’m hoping this time she aligns with Dennis Kucinich and votes against the abominable Senate bill. It will only take a few ‘progressives’ to sink this measure. I’m hoping she’s among them–in fact, I’ve just sent her an e-mail right now urging her to vote no.