Normally, these “open letters” are something that I’ve written and submitted to a particular public official. As I am living in CD5 that usually means Harry Mitchell. They are written with a formal, respectful tone.
This one is written more as a blog post, with a less formal tone and links, though it also is respectful. It will also be submitted to Congressman Mitchell.
Dear Congressman Mitchell,
Tomorrow (or perhaps later today as you read this), you and your colleagues will be asked to vote on H.R 3962, the Affordable Healthcare for America Act. I am writing to you to urge you and them to support the bill, and to work to ensure that there is a viable and robust public option in it.
The CBO's analysis of the bill, with the proposed manager's amendment is here; the CBO's analysis of the Republicans' proposed substitute is here. The text of the actual manager's amendment is here, courtesy the House Rules Committee.
All of you are certain to hear from many of your constituents today on this issue, expressing their support or opposition to health care reform. (I tried calling your district office for more than 40 minutes, but the line was always busy. So, I called your D.C. office. The woman who answered was very pleasant and courteous while I voiced my opinion in support of health care reform.)
You and many of the Blue Dogs represent districts that are evenly split in terms of partisan voter registration, or like you, represent districts that are Republican-majority districts.
Congressman Mitchell, you are known as somebody who has "steered a middle course" during your more than four decades of public service. You have been a friend, mentor, teacher, mayor, state senator, and now, United States Congressman, for generations of Tempeans and now for residents of Scottsdale, Ahwatukee, Mesa, Fountain Hills, and Chandler.
Because of that middle course and your own reasoned, friendly, and warm approach to public discourse, you have been elected and re-elected to offices where the "conventional wisdom" said that no Democrat could win.
And on many issues, such an approach is not only a workable way of addressing issues, but it is the best way.
However, on the subject of health care reform, the debate is so polarized that tacking to the middle is only the best way if one wants to get pummeled from all sides.
Many of your Blue Dog colleagues have expressed concerns that if they vote for a health care reform package with a public option, they will have difficulty gaining re-election next year. They fear that many of the Republicans and Independent voters in their districts won't support them as they have in the past.
I think it is more likely that a "yes" vote on health care reform will cost them votes that they weren't ever going to get anyway. The health care vote will just be the latest excuse.
On the other hand, a "no" vote will cost them votes, contributions, and, perhaps most importantly, the enthusiasm of their most energetic supporters. After the defeat of health care reform in 1994, the Democrats who lost that year were those who were vulnerable anyway, regardless of their vote on the issue. Many of those who previously supported them closed their wallets and/or stayed home during the campaign season instead of volunteering.
To be sure, tomorrow's vote won't be the last word, or vote, on the subject. There will be many more as the House and Senate work to reconcile their versions of health care reform.
Many folks in Congress, possibly including you and the other Blue Dogs, will view that fact as an opportunity to "have it both ways."
None of you should fall into that trap.
People will remember, and voting for health care reform before voting against it, or vice versa, only serves to alienate both sides.
Additionally, many of you will be tempted to find an imperfection in the bill, and use it as an excuse to say to your constituents "Hey, I support health care reform, but I can't vote for..." XYZ, no matter how trivial "XYZ" is.
Don't fall for that trap, either.
No bill is ever perfect, and if you and your colleagues waited for perfection, no bill would ever pass, to the point of no post offices ever being named or college sports teams being congratulated on winning a championship.
Polls show that an overwhelming number of Americans support reform of the America's health care delivery system. There is, of course, disagreement over what that form those changes should take. One thing is clear though, the only real failure possible here is to simply do *nothing.*
*Nothing* is what was delivered to America in 1994, and the aftereffects of that failure devastated the country for 12 years until 2006, when the Republicans were stripped of their majority status in Congress.
To sum up, you and your colleagues are fated to be criticized harshly after your votes, regardless of whether those votes are "yea" or "nay."
So be it.
While I do believe that you and your colleagues should support health care reform (and stated so earlier in this letter), each of you, whether you end up supporting or opposing health care reform, should do one thing.
Consider the best interests of your constituents, and vote your consciences.
Thank you for your time and consideration.