Dean: Democrats Should Use Reconciliation To Pass Health Care Bill

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(Host) Former Governor Howard Dean is urging Democratic Congressional leaders to move ahead with a bold health care reform bill in the coming weeks. 

Dean says the Democrats should pass the bill by using a parliamentary procedure that’s usually reserved for budget bills – it’s a procedure that doesn’t allow opponents to mount a filibuster.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Dean says he looks at the results of the Senate election in Massachusetts this week with a different point of view than many political analysts.

Dean says Republican Scott Brown won the election because a sizeable number of liberal Democrats decided to send a message to their Congressional leaders about the sorry state of health care reform efforts in Washington:

(Dean) "18% of Barack Obama’s supporters voted for Scott Brown – why? Because they thought the Senate bill didn’t go far enough and they were angry at Washington because they thought it was business as usual and they had been promised change…This is a progressive movement that didn’t feel like anybody was paying any attention to them, and they voted with their feet by either voting for Scott Brown or staying home."

(Kinzel) Dean says Senate Democrats have passed a weak bill because they needed to get 60 votes to overcome a Republican filibuster. 

He says they should now use a procedure known as budget reconciliation that doesn’t permit opponents to block the bill with a filibuster.  Dean says going this route means the Democrats could put together a much stronger bill because they would need only 51 votes to pass it:

(Dean) "Nobody cares if the insurance companies, the Republicans – pardon my Freudian slip – are infuriated or not, because they clearly have been obstructionists the entire time. What they care about is what is in the final bill. And if you use reconciliation as George Bush has a number of times, especially with his budget busting tax cuts, we’re going to get a good bill and it’s really going to do some significant things and Vermonters will like that."

(Kinzel) Dean argues that Democrats were elected in 2008 to bring change to the Washington political system.  He says the time has come for the Democrats to display some courage on the health care issue.  Dean says he thinks of President Teddy Roosevelt in times like this:

(Dean) "Teddy Roosevelt was really a reformer. He understood that if you want an omelet you’ve got to break some eggs to get one. And, you know, once you get to Washington nobody wants to break any eggs. Well guess what? The American people would like to break some eggs – they just broke one in Massachusetts. If you want change there’s got to be some change. You can’t just get change by compromising with all the people who don’t want change."

(Kinzel) Dean says he’s optimistic that Democratic leaders in Washington will adopt an aggressive strategy that will result in the passage of a meaningful health reform bill this year.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

(Host Outro) You can hear all of the interview with former Governor Howard Dean during Vermont Edition today at noon.

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