Selma and Mike Taylor of Greensboro went Washington to meet with our elected officials. Full story after the jump.
I hadn't heard about the rally in DC, but, hey, did you know Michael Jackson died?
Selma and I went to Washington, DC last Thursday to attend a rally sponsored by Health Care for America Now (HCAN) in support of health care reform and to lobby our elected representatives. There were 10,000 people at a rally at Upper Senate Park on a weekday. I don't know if there was any news coverage of the event locally but the energy among the crowd was palpable.
People want health care reform urgently and passionately. In particular, we and others at the rally want health care reform that includes a strong public option. That is, a government backed plan, similar to Medicare, that can provide basic medical care at affordable rates to anyone who cannot afford or cannot get insurance under the plans currently provided by the corporate health care giants.
Unfortunately, some of our elected representatives do not share our urgency and passion. After the rally, Selma and I visited some of their offices, with mixed results. On the positive side, we found the staffer at Rep. David Price's office to be very helpful. She assured us that Rep. Price is fully behind a strong public option and he is using his influence to get other representatives and senators to support the public option.
We were somewhat surprised at Rep. Mel Watt's office. We had been told earlier that Rep. Watt had not come out in support of a public option even though nearly 200 other representatives have. We questioned his staffer about this. She assured us he will support a public plan. He just has not taken an official position because the official bill to be considered by the House is still being put together. We found this to be a disappointing response. We believe leadership involves leading the way, not just following the crowd.
We also went to Rep. Howard Coble's office, unsure of the reception we would receive. We were received very graciously by one of his top aides. She spent close to half and hour with us and Rep. Coble himself called us the next day. We asked his aide directly if Rep. Coble could support a public option . She surprised us by saying he could "as long as it it not the only option." Unfortunately, almost everything she said after that was a repetition of Republican talking points that are aimed at stoking fear of a public option. Her other main point was that the Democrats are in charge and Rep. Coble has little power to affect the shape of the final bill.
That brings me to our visit with Sen. Kay Hagan, who has tremendous power to shape the health care reform bill from her position on the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) subcommittee. Her role on health care reform so far has been troubling to those of us who support a strong public option. Some of her public comments on the public option have not been supportive and behind the scenes reporting on the workings of the HELP subcommittee indicates she has been trying to block or water down the public option.
She has ignored letters, e-mails, and phone calls from us and many other supporters of the public option since her election and no one organizing the events were certain she would attend the town hall meeting that had been set up for her and other members of the North Carolina delegation to discuss health care reform with us. At the last minute, after considerable coaxing, she walked across the street and met with over 200 North Carolinians for a few minutes. She made an informal speech, which was mostly "happy talk" and studiously avoided endorsing a public option, even when asked about it directly. Many of us are worried Sen. Hagan is more concerned about the corporate health care giants than she is about the health care of average North Carolinians.
Making legislation has been compared to making sausage. It is an apt analogy. The legislation that will transform health care in our nation for better or for worse is being put together right now and it is not a pretty sight. Well-heeled corporate lobbyists are roaming the halls and offices of Congress, trying to get our elected representatives to add all kinds of unknown ingredients to the sausage. These next few days and weeks will make or break health care reform and, probably, the Obama presidency. We will be eating the sausage that comes out of Congress for the next generation.
If you are concerned about health care reform, now is the time to weigh in with our elected representatives, particularly Sen. Hagan. Please take a few minuted to call, write, or e-mail Sen. Hagan and Reps. Coble and Watt. Let them know what you want in health care legislation. In particular, if you support a strong public option, now is the time to let them know.
If you are interested in learning more about HCAN, you can go directly to their web site.
You can call toll free to the offices of any or our representatives and senators by dialing 1-888-436-8427. When the operator answers, just tell them whose office you want. You can e-mail them by going to their official web sites and selecting the Contact button. The web sites are as follows:
Senator Hagan's site is www.hagan.senate.gov
Rep. Coble's site is www.coble.house.gov
Rep. Watt's site is www.watt.house.gov
Keep in mind that you do not have to go all the way to DC to lobby your elected representatives. All of them have offices in Greensboro and , with the 4th of July coming up, they will probably be in town for a few days. Call them and visit them. It is important.
As President Obama has reminded us, his election did not guarantee real change. It just provided the opportunity for us to make real change. Or, to paraphrase FDR, "You elected me. Now make me do what needs to be done."