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Must-Read Post From Kagro on Public Option Fight

Cecile Richards PicKagro has an excellent rundown of what happened on the public option fight. Here’s the key graf:

[T]here’s the story of the voices in the wilderness, the single payer advocates, who settled for the promise of a floor vote on the Weiner amendment, only to see that amendment withdrawn in a deal to avoid… the Stupak amendment, only to see that amendment not withdrawn and ultimately given a floor vote and be adopted.

The public option — to the extent it was saved (and that’s yet to be determined) — was saved by taking a sober look at the legislative playing field, identifying where the cracks in the dam would appear, and building the best bulwark against it that an ad hoc network of advocates could build, working it, grooming it, and maintaining it. Vote pledges were sought early on, lined up and reinforced in advance of the committee markups, with a special emphasis on seeing those pledges through all the way through conference.

Abortion rights advocates, on the other hand, had an existing network of professional lobbyists and policy analysts, plus a multi-million dollar funding base, not to mention nearly 35 years of lead time in terms of knowing that any health care bill would include a serious abortion threat (counted from the earliest days of the Hyde amendment on), and yet their efforts seemed next to invisible, and they now look to be in position not only to possibly lose, but to put their biggest supporters in Congress in danger of voting the wrong way on their signature issue.

Even if you don’t buy the idea of starting the clock on threats to abortion rights in the health care bill with the advent of the Hyde amendment, Bart Stupak was open about his demands on the bill from early on, committing them to a letter to the Speaker as early as June.

I talked about this with Dana Goldstein of the Daily Beast, and asked why the choice groups weren’t counting votes in June like we were.  I keep having to re-read this paragraph to make sure this is what Cecile Richards actually said:

Richards, of Planned Parenthood, said she wasn’t aware of any efforts, before Saturday’s vote, to extract promises from legislators to vote against a health bill that restricts abortion access. “Frankly, this issue came out Friday night,” she said. Yet Stupak has been on the warpath since July, when he released a letter signed by 19 Democrats demanding a ban on abortion coverage in the exchanges.

Vote counting isn’t some novel tactic — it’s what lobbyists do.  They line up support early in the game, and then try to hold members of Congress to those commitments.  We only did what any lobbyist would.  In the third quarter last year, Planned Parenthood paid Baker, Donelson $30,000 for lobbying, and $15,000 to the Glover Park Group.  Planned Parenthood Action Fund spent $20,813 on internal lobbying, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America spent $161,885.

Richards makes close to $400,000 a year. Planned Parenthood national has assets in excess of  $126 million dollars.  Anyone want to explain how they did not, by Richards’ own admission, see this coming?

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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