It isn’t the death of the public option people are upset over. It’s the process. With the deadline of Christmas fast approaching, every effort had to be made to get all sixty votes. Deals are constantly struck and rumors are always immediately released so everyone knows what happened behind closed doors. That is politics.
Forgive liberals for being naive, but they wanted democracy.
Early this month, faced with a public option that they had been told was essentially, OK, not great, but OK, rumors began to swirl that closed door negotiations would kill their beloved public option. Instead, the “Gang of Ten” dealt liberals an early Christmas gift, the Medicare buy in. Rejoice was heard everywhere from Anthony Wiener, champion of single payer to Jacob Hacker, the godfather of the public plan.
Then, this weekend, terror struck liberals in the form of their least favorite, sometimes Democrat, Joe Lieberman. Another set of behind closed doors deals dropped the plan liberals across the country had been hedging their bets.
The floor of the Senate is essentially the least dramatic room of Congress. All votes are known and all speeches are previewed prior to any action on the floor. Still, it is sacred. It is the one place where every American has the chance to have their voices heard on behalf of their elected representatives.
Liberals shouldn’t be demanding to kill the bill; they should be demanding democracy. They would be placated with a vote on the issue. A vote to keep the public option would not get the needed 60 votes, similar to the Republican blocked single payer amendment from Bernie Sanders (I-VT).
Unfortunately, due to the complex procedure of the Senate, a vote on keeping the public option is essentially impossible. However, lawmakers should be able to find a way past their own procedural rules. Parliamentary procedure and Senate rules are set in place to help, not hinder, the legislative process.
Let it not be misinterpreted, liberals want health care reform. A month ago they probably would have been satisfied without the public option. But the Senate has raised and lowered expectations, forgetting that more than just the 60 senators and swing state voters are watching. Pushing to kill the bill is only in response to the threats they saw their politicians successfully making. When the only major public figure who is speaking on their behalf, Howard Dean, is ostracized by fellow liberals, this only adds insult to injury.
Instead of starting a party in-fight, which makes the Republicans look civilized, liberals merely want to be heard. Now that they have, it is time to get back to work to improve the lives of the people who need help the most.
By Emma Sandoe