Friday, July 31, 2009

Stand Your Ground Award: House Progressive Caucus

It's hard to know how long this victory will last, but for now, there's at least some hope that there will be a public option in the House's version of the health care reform bill:

The chairman of a pivotal House committee announced Friday that he had reached an agreement with other Democrats that would allow the panel to approve sweeping health legislation later in the day.
To avoid cutting subsidies for low-income people, [committee chairman Rep. Henry] Waxman said, Democrats would find additional savings elsewhere in the bill.

Representative Diana DeGette, Democrat of Colorado, said the Blue Dog deal would hold down costs. But she said, "It was paid for on the backs of people who cannot afford health insurance," so liberals raised concerns.

House Panel Reaches Deal on Health-Care Bill

Earlier in the week, Waxman had reached a compromise with conservative Democrats on the bill, which, as Rep. DeGette said, had the effect of making health care nearly as unobtainable for the poor as it is now. For once, progressives actually stood up and objected:

In a letter to be delivered to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House health care leaders, Congressional progressives will reject a compromise Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) forged with Blue Dog Democrats to advance legislation. "We regard the agreement reached by Chairman Waxman and several Blue Dog members of the [Energy and Commerce] Committee as fundamentally unacceptable," it reads.

This agreement is not a step forward toward a good health care bill, but a large step backwards. Any bill that does not provide, at a minimum, for a public option with reimbursement rates based on Medicare rates - not negotiated rates - is unacceptable.

Members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus are hoping 50 or more members will sign on, to prove they have enough votes to kill the final bill.

In Letter, House Progressives Object To Blue Dog Public Option Compromise

The letter reads in part:

To offset the increased costs incurred by adopting the provisions advocated by the Blue Dog members of the Committee, the agreement would reduce subsidies to low- and middle-income families, requiring them to pay a larger portion of their income for insurance premiums, and would impose an unfunded mandate on the states to pay for what were to have been Federal costs.

In Letter, House Progressives Object To Blue Dog Public Option Compromise

Eventually, 53 57 signed on. This was enough get Pelosi's attention, and the deal was revised. As long as the Republicans continue to vote against any bill that has even a hint of Democratic Party involvement in it, the progressives can block legislation as effectively as the Blue Dogs can.

For (finally) standing up for progressive values, the House Progressive Caucus members who signed that letter, particularly Rep. DeGette, have won the first Stand Your Ground Award of 2009. This award recognizes members of Congress who stand up for principles of freedom and liberalism. It is by far the rarest award granted by this site. There's no value to this award beyond whatever satisfaction the notice brings to its recipients.

Congratulations to the Progressive Caucus. In the future, let's see more of this.

(h/t to Comrade E.B. Misfit for the TPM link.)

UPDATE: The original version of this article, entitled "Progressives Win One", was revised to include the award and the quote from the letter.

UPDATE 2: According to this page of the Progressive Caucus's letter, there are now 57 members of Congress who signed it. That list includes SnS Blue candidates Donna Edwards and Eric Massa.

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