Thursday, January 21, 2010

N.Y. Needs Independence in Washington: Harold Ford Weighs in on Martha Coakley's Defeat

By Harold Ford, Jr.

The defeat of Martha Coakley in Massachusetts represents the latest rejection of a governing style that takes the taxpayers for granted and puts partisan, insider politics ahead of everything else.

Put simply, the defining moment in the Massachusetts Senate campaign was during the final debate when David Gergen asked Scott Brown whether he would be willing to "sit in Teddy Kennedy's seat" and block the passage of health care reform for another 15 years.

Brown responded, rightly, that "it's not the Kennedys' seat . . . it's the people's seat."

And while I disagree with Brown about most issues of public policy, I absolutely agree that a United States senator has to put the people first when making decisions.

I have made it very clear that if I run for the U.S. Senate, and if I am fortunate enough to be elected, I will be an independent Democrat who puts the people of New York before the politicians in Albany and Washington.

All the time. Every time.

To be sure, there are many issues where the interests of the people collide with what the professional politicians want. And frequently, our politicians end up sticking together - forming a narrow, insulated, self-reinforcing elite.

That's not me. And that makes them worried.

New Yorkers know that if I run, I will be on their side.


Let me be specific:

On health care, I have made it very clear that I will stand with New Yorkers against any efforts that would cost us an additional billion dollars in Medicaid payments and impose unfair financial burdens on our state in the form of extra fees or taxes. New York already sends far too much money to Washington, getting back far too little in return.

Health reform remains important. But in the wake of this week's election, the legislation should be narrowed to prevent insurance companies from denying coverage for preexisting conditions, enact responsible tort reform and provide health coverage to all children. And states must have more input into how health coverage is expanded.

Make no mistake, I will take a backseat to no one in supporting health care reform. But not at the expense of New York State. Not now. Not ever.

And while I understand why the President is putting the onus on banks and other financial institutions to pay back the money they borrowed, let's not forget that the financial services industry is critical to New York State's economic well-being - to creating jobs, to stimulating the economy and to providing needed tax revenue.

Congress should pass financial regulatory reform that compels greater transparency in how risk is managed, protects consumers from excessive banking and mortgage fees and expands shareholder say about compensation, among other priorities. But it must also take great care not to harm the great engine of New York's economy.

With renewed concerns about terrorism and national security emerging, New York needs a senator who will put our state first.

That's why I'm thinking, very seriously, about running for United States Senate.

Ford represented Tennessee in Congress from 1997 to 2007. He lives in Manhattan and is a vice chairman of Bank of America-Merrill Lynch.

Source: New York Daily News