Op-Ed: Democrats: Stop screaming and pass health reform

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Op-Ed: Democrats: Stop screaming and pass health reform

The Washington Post – …In the meantime, progressives such as Brown and Rockefeller are right to be fighting with all their might to push through this less than perfect but still remarkably decent proposal.

To vote against it, Rockefeller said when I caught up with him recently, "you have to be for not covering 30 million people . . . you have to be for denying coverage to people with preexisting conditions . . . you have to be against helping small businesses buy health insurance." His list went on and on, pointing to the rather astonishing progress this bill makes. Brown agrees, and suggests that progressives now need to direct their energies toward improving on the Senate's work. Senate passage of this bill, expected later this week, will not be the final step. There will still be negotiations with the House, whose plan is, in some important respects, the superior product, especially when it comes to making insurance more affordable for low- and middle-income Americans.

While the Senate's intricate balance severely constrains how many changes it will accept — Sen. Ben Nelson, who provided the critical 60th vote, made that clear in a Sunday CNN interview — there is still room to maneuver. Instead of trying to derail the process, which is exactly what conservative opponents want to do, those on the left dissatisfied with the Senate bill should focus their efforts over the next few weeks on getting as many fixes into it as they can.

And then they can do something else: Start organizing for the next health-care fight. Enactment of a single bill will not mark the end of the struggle. It will open a series of new opportunities. It's a lot easier to improve a system premised on the idea that everyone should have health coverage than to create such a system in the first place. Better to take a victory and build on it — to accept this plan as a "starter home," in Sen. Tom Harkin's apt metaphor — than to label victory as defeat.

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