Congressional Recess Action – It Is a Good Thing They Are Coming Home
Okay, so there is a lot of consternation about the apparent willingness of the Congress to recess prior to having a health care reform bill from each house finished. The usual doom and gloom birds have been circling and crying that the public option is doomed, we have lost just because the Congress is going to miss a very tight deadline put forth by the president. The Dog would like to point out a couple of things and suggest a course of action.
First off, missing a deadline like this is not that uncommon. Remember that the President asked for a stimulus package to be on his desk the day he was sworn in. He gave the Congress plenty of notice and still they missed that deadline by a month. Now, did we get a perfect stimulus bill? No, of course we did not. However, we did get a bill which was enough to start rebuilding a small level of confidence in the economy, extend unemployment benefits for those who were running out and for those who would lose their jobs since it was enacted. We had a major subsidy of COBRA costs for those who were going to lose their jobs as the recession bottomed out and hopefully came back.
We also had a quite recognition that we were likely to need to revisit this issue again in the future, after some of the other major crises of the mid-winter had been addressed, which includes health care reform.
It is true the Republicans have vowed to kill this reform effort out of an overdeveloped sense of partisanship and totally nonexistent sense of patriotism. They will use this time to try to gin up more opposition to the public option, to spread spurious facts and outright lies to try to scare the public into resisting a change the public has said time and again they want. But this does not mean they will automatically win. Remember, this is the same Republican Party that embraced Sara Palin as their new standard barer, they are not that smart.
Another point the Dog would like to make. It is really good rhetoric to say the Representatives and Senators are going on vacation during the August recess, but it is not really accurate. Sure they are going to take some down time during this month, but they will also spend a lot time in their home States and districts talking to their constituents. Constituent contact and services are a big part of how they stay in office and August is one of the months of the year where they do a lot of it.
Which brings the Dog to the suggestion for action; knowing the Representatives and Senators are going to go on recess (yeah, while it fires up the base there is exactly no chance of them being kept in town more than a day or two beyond the scheduled recess), now is the time to set up a meeting with these servants of the public.
This is not as daunting as it sounds. You will have to do a little prep work, but if you approach it correctly you will have an opportunity to make an impact on the health care debate face to face. All the calls in the world and e-mails do not have quite the impact of a well reasoned conversation where you can look your Representative in the eye and see his or her reaction.
You will want to make an appointment. Sure, you can drop by and hope that the official you want to visit with is there and has time on her hands, but it is going to be totally hit or miss. Since your time (and theirs) is valuable, do a little advanced planning and things are likely to go much more smoothly. Call the office and ask for the person that makes the Representatives appointments. If you have to, leave a message, but in any case be prepared to follow up. When you get them on the phone, the Dog recommends something along the lines of the following script:
Hi my name is Something The Dog Said. I am a constituent, supporter and blogger from his state/district and I would very much like fifteen minutes to talk the Representative.
Since all of that is true, you should have no trouble selling it. When the appointment assistant asks what you would like to talk to the Senator about, try the following:
I was hoping to be able to talk to the Senator about his position on the health care reform bills now in the Senate. As a believer in our system of government I know how important it is for the Senator to have the unvarnished opinions of his constituents.
You may or may not get an appointment with the official of your choice. If they say that they do not meet with single citizens, be polite and ask for the full name of the person you are talking to. Explain that you want to use it to let your readers know that Representative X does not receive individual citizens, not out of anger you understand, but so they do not waste their time trying as you have. This is a nice way of reminding them that ignoring their constituents is a dangerous thing to do in the age of the internet.
If that does not help, don’t give up! Ask if you might talk to his/her chief of staff or legislative aid. It is, of course, not the same, but remember the overall goal, to get more of the progressive side of the nations point of view in front of recalcitrant Senators and Reps. Of course, you might not get any kind of appointment. If that happens, then you have to follow through on your veiled threat, and write a scathing article on all the community blogs you post on. You should be sure to e-mail a link the everyone you have talked to at the office, so they understand that you are not going to take being ignored lightly. The whole point of this fight is to keep pressure on your elected officials in Washington, so be prepared.
If you do get an appointment, with anyone, be prepared! You want to dress up a little bit. It is completely bogus, but the reality is we do put judgments on the value of people by the way they look the first time we see them. Knowing this, and knowing you will only have a few minutes to make your case, make sure those minutes count! It is also important that you know where you is on this issue. See if you can find public statements by them so you are sure.
For some this next part is going to be hard. Don’t ask or push for things which are just not going to happen. The Dog wants to get a single payer system, but it is not going to happen this round. The president is not supporting that idea at all, and without his support it is not going to happen. What we are working for this round is a public option, available on day one. That is the whole ball game. Everything else is fungible because once we get that established we are on our way to single payer.
Be prepared to support you issue. They are likely to say it is going to cost too much. The counter to this is we have the highest wealth gap since the Great Depression and the least tax brackets and lowest top end taxes. The wealthy of this nation have had an increasing free ride for the last twenty years and it is time to rebalance that in the national interest. Point out that as recently as the 1980’s the top bracket was 50%, and that if we put that rate on income over two million a year, we would have more than enough money to cover every citizen.
They are likely to talk about the need for markets to work themselves out. You should agree when they say that. Yeah the Dog knows that is a shocker, but wait for the follow up. You then point out that 94% of all insurance markets in the nation are what the DOJ call “highly concentrated” this means one company has 42% or more of the total market. In 13 States two companies control 90% of the insurance market. Without a national public option, these states and all those markets do not actually have the real competition that drives innovation and contains cost, while providing customers real choices.
Finally, talk about patriotism. Point out that a great nation like the United States can not be truly great as long as it is leaving 17% of the citizens without health care. That number of people is a on the edge of being a national security issue, as a major pandemic, if it struck those uninsured would cripple this country both economically and politically.
Be sure to stay calm and measured in your tone. There is nothing to be gained by letting the stereotypes of the Left get in the way of your arguments. Be clear on the point this is an issue which you will blog about and it is the Senators chance to make a good impression on his constituents. Don’t back down, but don’t be too confrontational. Be firm, polite and upbeat. Thank whoever you meet with for their time and ask for an e-mail where you can send them a link for your blog post on this meeting.
Then be sure to follow up, no matter what happens, post about your experience and make your voice heard. Even if you don’t get a meeting, hammering the fact a Republican Representative is hiding from his constituents is a blow to his chances of an easy reelection.
If all of the people who are taking health care as their issue make an effort to see both their Representative and Senator in the August recess we can turn the tables on the Republicans strategy of drawing this out. We can give a comfort to the Democrats supporting this, give a reason to have a spine to the ones dragging their feet, and give heart burn to the Republicans in the best way possible, by making the wishes of the voters known to all of them, directly.
The floor is yours.