Ted Bobrow

Feingold stresses continued urgent need for health reform

By - Mar 2nd, 2010 02:30 am
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Sen. Russ Feingold

Sen. Russ Feingold knew he was among friends last Saturday.

The Community Brainstorming Conference is a group of mostly African American residents of Milwaukee who have been meeting on the fourth Saturday of every month going back to 1986 to discuss the important issues of the day. Feingold, one of four panelists at the forum this past Saturday on health care reform, began by praising the group as one of the best examples of such a regular discussion anywhere.

“In the middle of the storm that we find ourselves, and it is truly a storm, this is a true refuge in the effort to provide health care to all, which is a moral imperative for our nation,” Feingold said.

Russ Feingold, seated, at the weekend forum. Photo by Martha Love special to TCD.

Left to right: Reginald Birt, Milwaukee Health Services, Inc.; Terrell Martin, Organizing for America; Robert Kraig, Citizen Action of Wisconsin; Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI); Russell W. Stamper, Community Brainstorming Conference. Photo by Martha Love special to TCD.

He correctly judged that few of the more than 100 people in the basement of St. Matthews C.M.E. Church on North Ninth Street were opposed to President Obama’s health care reform (HCR) agenda.

Feingold then dissected what he called the “alleged opposition” to HCR, asking, “When there is a proposal to provide health care to 30 million Americans who don’t have it, what do you have inside you to oppose it?”

Feingold dismissed the claims of the opposition that more than 50 percent of the public opposed Obama’s plan, citing that many of those don’t think it goes far enough.

Even so, the first two months of 2010 were not kind to the cause.

When Republican Scott Brown of Massachusetts won election to the Senate in January as the replacement for the late, long-serving liberal Edward M. Kennedy, it seemed to take the wind out of HCR’s sails. Democrats lost their 60-vote so-called “supermajority,” causing many to fear the legislation would be subject to death by filibuster. Republicans were quick to claim that the Massachusetts vote was a referendum on Obama’s health care proposal: Democrats should drop their far-reaching effort and start over.

For the better part of February, many Democrats seemed to go quiet. President Obama called on the Republicans to offer ideas of their own, but ultimately little hope was given to a compromise plan emerging from a conference committee that could gain 60 votes in the Senate.

But HCR is by no means dead. Supporters are once again speaking out in support of comprehensive reform. Obama fanned the flames of this enthusiasm by hosting a bipartisan forum with members of Congress of both parties last week. In it, the President skillfully chastened opponents of reform with reasoned arguments and passionate appeals to address a critical need of the American people.

Obama’s message was clear: if Republicans failed to work conscientiously on a compromise health care bill, Democrats would find a way to pass a strong piece of legislation on their own.

At Saturday’s forum, Feingold reinforced the President’s message that the health care bill requires action. He also urged his listeners not to believe claims that the Democrats weren’t playing fair by considering the procedural rules known as reconciliation to pass the legislation.

According to the senator, the rules were established to avoid the kind of gridlock that could prevent important legislation relating to the budget and deficit reduction from getting passed and they are very clear.

“I will only support using reconciliation as long as it follows those rules, and I won’t support it if it doesn’t,” he said.

“No matter what we do there will be people who give us no credit,” Feingold added. “But this is a time when we have to get something done.”

Many people are angry and upset that the effort to pass health care reform has taken so long. But another speaker at Saturday’s forum used a football metaphor that many fans of the Green Bay Packers could understand.

“We’re at the 2-yard line with two seconds left,” said Terrell Martin, a community organizer with the group Organizing for America , created to support Obama’s agenda. “We need each and every one of us to get involved to make sure we get the touchdown and provide health care for everyone in this nation who needs it.”

Categories: Gray Matter, Politics

0 thoughts on “Feingold stresses continued urgent need for health reform”

  1. Anonymous says:

    In the interest of full disclosure, I am also a volunteer community organizer with Organizing for America.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Terrell Martin is right – we are at the 2-yard line. Making it across the goal line is not a certainty, but it’s very likely if we work together. The biggest challenge will be rounding up the votes in the House for passage of the health care bill that passed the Senate on December 24th. People can help get this done by calling their Representative in the House and telling them to vote for the Senate health care bill and then passing a budget reconciliation bill.

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