Zell Miller’s favorite Democratic congressman, Rep. Jim Marshall of Macon, has shown once again that he will always be a reliable go-to guy for Republicans in the House. Marshall told the Macon Telegraph this week that he basically hates all the Democratic versions of the health insurance reform bills, even the one drafted by Sen. Max Baucus that has no public option and is friendliest to the insurance industry. Marshall’s position won’t be a huge surprise to anyone who follows Georgia politics. He was also the only House Democrat who voted against every bill to expand the children’s health insurance program two years ago.
Even as Blue Dogs like Marshall and probably John Barrow continue their stubborn opposition to healthcare reform legislation that might actually work, the American public is leaving them on the wrong side of history. The latest poll numbers from ABC-Washington Post show that public support is increasing both for a government-created public option that would provide real competition to private insurers and a mandate that would require all citizens to have health insurance.
This brings to mind the insightful remarks made by Rep. Alan Grayson of Florida in a recent floor speech: “I want to remind us all that Olympia Snowe was not elected President last year. Olympia Snowe has no veto power in the Senate. Olympia Snowe represents a state with one half of one percent of America’s population.”
His point was, why is the Senate’s Democratic leadership giving virtual veto power over their version of the healthcare bill to a Republican senator from Maine? Yes, Olympia Snowe did vote to move the Baucus bill out of committee, making her the only Republican in either chamber to vote for one of the Democratic bills. But the Democrats, last I looked, had 60 seats in the Senate while Republicans only had 40. If that majority is competently managed, they don’t need the vote of Snowe or any other Senate Republican.
Evidently, Majority Leader Harry Reid thinks a two-thirds majority is required to pass anything and is waiting for six or seven more Democrats to get elected to the Senate. Either that, or he’s the most ineffective Senate majority leader since Elbridge Gerry was inventing the gerrymander. I’ll go for option number two.
The really weird aspect of all this is President Barack Obama’s unwillingness or refusal to step in and insist that Congress do what a strong majority of the American public already wants them to do: pass a bill with a public option. My memory isn’t always perfect, but I seem to remember he campaigned for president on the issue of reforming the health insurance system. As president, he also has a little bit of clout he can bring to bear here.
In the absence of Obama, the one Democratic leader who is making any progress on securing the passage of a public option is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She and her leadership team are trying to put together 218 votes in the House for a robust public option, and they just may succeed.
As Alan Grayson said, the voters did not elect Olympia Snowe president last year. They also didn’t elect Nancy Pelosi as president. But Pelosi seems to be the only one who’s acting like a president and using the power of their position to get something done on this issue.