Apparently, there's a push underway in the Senate to pass health care reform with a public option through reconciliation, which is a unique Senate procedure created largely to ensure passage of necessary budget legislation.
I want the President to sign a good health care bill - and preferably one with a public option - as soon as possible. However, I would urge the Senate to be careful substantively and politically with the reconciliation approach, which would allow for Democrats to pass a reform bill with only 51 votes.
A few suggestions:
First, get the legislation right. Expediency and speed should not drive such an important and massive overhaul. Work with, not capitulate to, Republicans and make the final package bipartisan. The townhall session with Republicans on health care a few weeks ago - and the upcoming one this week - suggest there's a genuine willingness to get a bill done with constructive Republican input that would translate into Republican support. LBJ's landmark legislative successes were all passed with broad support from both political parties. President Obama and Congress may not win health care passage with an LBJ-like majority, but some Republican support is crucial.
Second, the country is rightly focused on and anxious about job creation and economic growth. Consistent with this, before moving to passage of health care, I would recommend Congress do two things.
First, please draft and pass an aggressive jobs bill that cuts personal and business taxes, invests in the growth of domestic clean energy industries and gives local governments more autonomy to invest federal stimulus money. The country won't understand how increasing their taxes by insuring 30 million Americans without health insurance is sound and smart public policy during a recession. Furthermore, ailing New York small business owners need relief now from the high business taxes crippling them right now.
Second, whatever health reform legislation that passes, please ensure that you remove any and all language that restricts a woman's right to choose, which the original Senate bill unfortunately does. NARAL gave Senate Democrats a "pass" on the original health bill that passed the Senate. They should not have done that, and I hope they will correct themselves and apply appropriate pressure to Democrats to remove the anti-choice language from the next health bill.
Finally, the original Senate bill added more than $1 billion in new taxes and fees to New York state's challenged fiscal situation. In fact, the fiscal effect caused by that Senate bill across New York - from New York city to Rochester to Syracuse to Buffalo to Albany - would constrain even more the choices facing the respective local governments across the state.
Please, I ask our Senate and congressional delegation, protect New York!