Why not air all the health-care reform options?

In a sort of follow-up to yesterday’s post about how the supposedly moribund GOP still manages to shape the debate on certain issues, here’s Congressional Black Caucus chairwoman Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, on the House floor last night talking about health-care reform:

You’ll notice she speaks of her own advocacy of a single-payer universal health care plan, but then she focuses in on ensuring whatever plan comes forth this year has a robust public insurance component so that every American is guaranteed accessible, quality health care. That’s in keeping with a statement issued jointly a few weeks ago by Lee’s CBC along with the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

The chairs of all those caucuses – Lee for the CBC; Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, and Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., for the progressives; Nydia Velasquez, D-N.Y., for the Hispanic Caucus; and Mike Honda, D-San Jose, for the CAPAC – all are among the 75 cosponsors of H.R. 676, which would expand Medicare into a national, single-payer system covering all Americans.

But as the U.S. Senate Finance Committee held hearings last week to lay groundwork for a health care reform plan, chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., invited nobody to talk about single-payer options. Protestors decrying this omission disrupted the hearings; more than a dozen were arrested.

“We’ve got to reform our system fairly quickly, and to be candid with you, very few members of the House and Senate advocate single-pay. The vast, vast majority do not,” Baucus told the Great Falls Tribune last week. “It tells me that if I go down that road, it’s not going to be successful — it’s not going to pass the Congress.”

So the votes might not be there right now, but how do we know they wouldn’t be there if all the options were aired, if Congress and the American public could consider a single-payer option side-by-side with other options? Perhaps it would still be a non-starter, perhaps not; if opponents are so sure it’s nonsense, why not follow Woodrow Wilson’s axiom that “nothing chills nonsense like exposure to the air.” Isn’t that what open debate is all about?

Republican leaders not only don’t want to hear about single-payer, they don’t even want to talk about any public component at all lest we end up with “socialized medicine” that they insist would be inferior to the patchwork of private insurance America has now.

And yet a recent CBS News/New York Times poll found Americans are more likely today to embrace the idea of the government providing health insurance than they were 30 years ago: 59 percent say the government should provide national health insurance, including 49 percent who say such insurance should cover all medical problems. Go figure.


Stimulus $$$ for Oakland airport security

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says $7,721,355 will be split between six California airports – in Oakland, Bakersfield, Redding, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and San Diego — to update explosive detection systems and X-Ray units.

The money comes from the first $50 million spent by the Transportation Security Administration out of the total $1 billion included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act economic stimulus package. U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said she’s pleased as can be.

“The economic recovery package continues to help fund priorities in California and across our country,” she said. “In this case, I am so pleased that TSA is investing in equipment upgrades to make sure our airports have the most effective technology to keep us safe.”


Skinner to GOPers: Follow Specter to our tent

Well, you’ve gotta give Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, extra points for cheekiness: Today she sent to her Republican legislative colleagues an invitation to switch to the “Spectacular” Democratic Party, a la Arlen Specter.

“Democrats will soon have 60 votes in the US Senate and be able to make many decisions without filibusters—but it will take a bit of time for the final stages of legal challenges and to finally count the votes from last November’s election in Minnesota,” she wrote. “If you act quickly, California can lead the nation rather than following. We need 54 Democrats in the Assembly and 27 in the Senate to match this.”

As benefits of being Democrats, she cited:

  • “Big tent, not a pup tent”
  • “No pledges”
  • “No recalls”
  • “Large party with increasing registrants”
  • “Diverse Democratic jury for future advancement and primary electorates”
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    The biggest news in politics today…

    …is U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Penn., switching affiliation to the Democratic Party.

    Thoughts, anyone?

    UPDATE @ 1:06 P.M.: Here’s what U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., has to say about it:

    “Senator Specter did the right thing for his state and our country, and I welcome him to the Democratic Party.

    “He has given Democrats a huge lift. Senator Specter’s decision sends a tremendous signal to the country that people who want to bring about change are joining the Democratic Party. People who want to get things done, as Senator Specter does, are joining the Democratic Party.

    “The Democratic Party is a big umbrella. The Republicans have a tiny, little umbrella – if you lean just a bit outside it, you get soaked.

    “So, we are happy to have Senator Specter, and I look forward to working with him.”

    UPDATE @ 4:08 P.M.: Just in from Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland:

    “I welcome Senator Specter back to the Democratic Party. Senator Specter has long been an independent thinker and willing to work in a bipartisan way to do what is best for the American people. I look forward to working with him on issues such as medical research funding, criminal justice, education and other issues to help move this country forward.”


    DiFi to pirates: ‘Avast, ye scurvy dogs!’

    Well, not exactly. But in a letter to President Barack Obama last week, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein did say the government should put armed security teams aboard U.S.-flagged shipping vessels operating on pirate-infested seas.

    Feinstein, D-Calif., urged the move as a stop-gap measure until there’s a more comprehensive, international plan to deal with rampant piracy off the coast of Somalia. She also said today she’ll author a bill to make armed security teams a requirement for U.S.-flag vessels sailing through dangerous waters.

    “I believe that any U.S.-flag shipping vessel operating in the Gulf of Aden or the Straits of Malacca – or in any other high piracy zone – should be required to have armed security teams aboard,” she said. “I have listened to a lot of rhetoric and reasons for not doing this and how there must be a political solution to the ongoing chaos within Somalia. But in the meantime, the number of hijackings continues to go up, and more than 200 hostages are being held. This is unacceptable.”

    Feinstein notes pirates attacked over 90 commercial ships in 2008, hijacking 40 and reaping an estimated $120 million in ransom. The Maersk Alabama — from which Capt. Richard Phillips was seized and held hostage by pirates, necessitating a rescue by Navy SEALs — was but one of several ships hijacked recently, and now pirates threaten to target and harm the crews of U.S.-flagged ships in the region. “I believe we must take strong, decisive action to make sure the crews on these ships are protected from the menace of piracy.”

    Yarrrrgh. Read Feinstein’s letter to Obama in its entirety, after the jump…
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    Barbara Boxer has a granddaughter

    U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., has welcomed her fourth grandchild.

    Reyna Sofia Boxer — 6.2 lbs and 18 inches — was born Monday afternoon at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. Reyna is the second child for the Senator’s son, attorney and Oakland Planning Commissioner Doug Boxer, and his wife Amy, who co-owns Welcome Home Furniture Rental & Staging; they live in Oakland, where the Senator keeps one of her California homes. She is the Senator’s first granddaughter.