House Democratic leaders tend to get a little freaked out by Florida Congressman Alan Grayson.
Television talking-heads get a lot freaked out by the lawyer turned Democratic firebrand. (When Newsweek's Jonathan Alter and I debated Grayson's aggressive approach last fall on Ed Schutz's MSNBC Show, Alter argued that it was "great" for the congressman to talk "real muscular" on talk radio, "just not in Congress. I defended Grayson, as I have "real muscular" Republicans -- arguing that Congress should stop standing on ceremony and start getting things done.)
Grayson stirs things up because, in a directionless chamber, he stays on course -- and on message.
Grayson keeps getting it right when it comes to the health-care debate -- as he has on the debate about auditing the Fed (where he has teamed up with Texas Republican Ron Paul) and his proposal to counter the U.S. Supreme Court's lawless ruling in the Citizen's United case by applying antitrust laws to industry political action committees and requiring shareholder approval for corporate political spending.
Grayson's politically smart, legislatively nimble, willing to work across lines of partisanship and ideology and unapologetic when it comes to challenging corporate and political elites. What's not to like?
And, now, Grayson is responding in precisely the right way to the health-care reform debate.
He's disappointed by the tepid bill being advanced by the Obama administration and its allies in the House and Senate. But Grayson isn't grumbling. He's going to vote for the bill and then he's going to move immediately to improve it.
Grayson's plan is to create a "public option."
And he wants to do it the right way -- by, as the congressman explains, "(letting) any American buy into Medicare at cost. You want it, you pay for it, you're in. It adds nothing to the deficit; you pay what it costs."
Grayson's Public Option Act, which he introduced just last week, has already attracted 50 cosponsors. And it deserves a lot more.
The health-care reform fight won't be finished with the passage of the president's bill.
As Dr. Gene Farley, a long-time advocate for a single-payer plan along the lines advocated by Physicians for a National Health Care Program, says that Obama's proposal should be seen as a "building permit."
PNHP remains critical of the Obama plan, making many sound arguments regarding its flaws. But Farley argues for a "yes" vote.
His theory. Once the building permit is obtained, it will allow the construction of a full and functional health-care system.
Grayson's bill starts the construction project.
Here's his explanation of that project:
Health care reform -- here's where we are. The House of Representatives is about to vote on a Senate bill without a public option. It looks like the reconciliation amendment will not have a public option. The House bill had a public option, but once the House passes the Senate bill, that's history.
Which is why I introduced H.R. 4789, the Public Option Act. This simple four-page bill lets any American buy into Medicare at cost. You want it, you pay for it, you're in. It adds nothing to the deficit; you pay what it costs.
Let's face it. Health insurance companies charge as much money as possible, and they provide as little care as possible. The difference is called profit. You can't blame them for it; that's what a corporation does. Birds got to fly, fish got to swim, health insurers got to rip you off. And if you get really expensive, they've got to pull the plug on you. So for those of us who would like to stay alive, we need a public option.
In many areas of the country, one or two insurers have over 80% of the market. They can charge anything they want. And when you get sick, they can flip the bird at you. So we need a public option.
And they face no real competition because it costs billions of dollars just to set up a national health care network. In fact, the only one that's nationwide is . . . Medicare. And we limit that to one-eight of the population. It's like saying that only seniors can drive on federal highways. We really need a public option.
And to the right-wing loons who call it socialism, we say, "if you want to be a slave to the insurance companies, that's fine. If you want 30% of your premiums to go to 'administrative costs' and billion-dollar bonuses for insurance CEOs who figure out new and creative ways to deny you the care you need to stay healthy and alive, that's fine. But don't you try to dictate to me that I can't have a public option!"
And there is a way left to get it. By insisting on a vote on H.R. 4789. Three votes on health care, not two. The Senate bill, the reconciliation amendments, and the Public Option Act.
We got 50 co-sponsors for this bill in two days. Including five powerful committee chairman. But we need more.
Sign our Petition at WeWantMedicare.com.
Call. Write. Visit. Do whatever you can do to get you Congressman to co-sponsor this bill, and push it to a vote. Right now, before it's too late.
Let's do it!
Since going up a few days ago, the petition has already attracted more than 26,000 signatures -- with citizens signing on at a rate on Tuesday evening of one every 20 seconds. Once again, Congressman Grayson's populism has captured the imagination of the American people -- and proven that cautious Democrats (and their defenders in the media) are missing the point.
Americans don't want tea-partisan obstruction. They don't want Republican "party of no" opposition. They don't want bipartisan gridlock. They don't want White House compromises. They don't want House half steps or Senate sidesteps. They want health care. Now.