Health Care Reform's Final Round?
Political Advocacy Tracker is a roundup of what Christian activist organizations have been talking about over the last week.
The President and congressional leaders met Thursday for a "bipartisan" health care summit. Democrats said reform could not wait any longer; Republicans wanted to start over and move incrementally. Political advocacy groups jumped into the fray, often echoing partisan talking points.
Sojourners and Evangelicals for Social Action joined other religious groups in sending an open letter to President Obama. The letter was included in an advertisement in the Washington political newspaper The Hill.
"As people of faith, we envision a society where every person is afforded health, wholeness and human dignity. … Let us not delay health care justice any longer," admonished the signatories.
Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners, repeated the call for action on his God's Politics blog. "Inaction on health care is not an option; too many lives depend on it," said Wallis.
"People of faith won't give up, and they're going to keep galvanizing around the urgent need for reform that makes quality healthcare accessible and affordable for all American families," added Dan Nejfelt of Faith in Public Life. "There's too much at stake to let this opportunity slip away."
Other advocacy groups sided with the Republican call to scrap Obama's plan and begin anew.
"It's time to start over and adhere to time-tested American convictions: The Constitution matters, market-based changes work, big government is dangerous and inefficient—and the bedrock belief in the right to life is something that must never be bartered away," said Rob Schwarzwalder of the Family Research Council (FRC) in an article in Roll Call.
Andrea Lafferty, executive director of the Traditional Values Coalition, reiterated a similar call to begin anew. "Republicans should continue to insist on a clean slate and a fresh start," Lafferty said before the summit. "The bipartisan summit should begin with a new proposal which helps the uninsured but doesn't destroy a health system which is working for 8 out of 10 Americans."
Erica Wanis of the Center for a Just Society warned against assuming that the federal government was the only solution for health care problems. "Action for action's sake is not a wise course of action, particularly when it's virtually guaranteed that the involvement of big government is guaranteed to make things exponentially worse," said Wanis.
The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) issued a point-by-point critique of the President's health care proposal. The ERLC was pleased that the plan does not propose a "public option" and includes consumer protections. The ERLC objected to much of the proposal, but emphasized that the most important point was the proposal's lack of an explicit ban on abortion funding.
FRC president Tony Perkins agreed: "The President missed his opportunity to adopt the most popular piece of reform, Rep. Bart Stupak's (D-Mich.) outright ban on government-funded abortion."
What is next for health care reform? Mike Allen of Politico reported that Democrats viewed the summit as evidence of gridlock. They have already decided to push forward with the President's plan. This will likely be done through the use of reconciliation, a Senate parliamentary procedure that cannot be filibustered.
Ashley Horne of Focus on the Family Action predicted this outcome during Focus Action's weekly webcast. "At the same that the Democrats and that the President are calling for bipartisanship, they're also in the back rooms, and really publicly, kind of saying 'we're going to use reconciliation … we're going to use this process and ram it through anyway,'" said Horne.