Dear Congressman Welch…

haight-hippieI was inspired by Jane Hamsher and the amazing crowd who run the ActBlue PAC and have been kicking ass and taking names (and fundraising a shitload of money for those who do the right thing here) in an effort to at least temporarily provide the progressives in Congress with the spine they usually lack when push comes to shove and they need to show us all the strength of their convictions.

A few weeks back, they managed to convince a vast majority of the Progressive Caucus to sign on to a pledge not to vote for a health reform bill that did not include a clear, unequivocal public option. One of the few self-declared progressives that chose *not* to sign on was my very own Congressman Peter Welch (D-VT). Odum over at GMD did a good write-up of why it was that Welch might have chosen not to do so, and he certainly deserves to be challenged on it. I’ve written to Congressman Welch before, and always gotten very courteous (if disingenuous) replies. I’m curious to see what he says this time.

Dear Congressman Welch,

I’ve been dismayed and disappointed to watch the unfolding disaster that is the Democrat’s largely botched attempt at significant health care reform. The only really heartening part has been the courageous pledge made by a vast majority of the Progressive Caucus to only support a bill that contains a genuine public option.

Governor Dean and many others have made it quite clear that the public option is the crux of meaningful reform – anything else will largely constitute a rearranging of the deck chairs on the Titanic of American health care, a thinly veiled subsidy for the insurance industry that is the root cause of all that ails the approach to compassion and care in this country.

We’ve come a long way from the days on the campaign trail when Candidate Obama could articulate a clear and unequivocal position in favor of genuine reform with a public option for the American people, and while President Obama insists he hasn’t lost sight of what is at stake here, key players appear to be wavering and caving under pressure from well-funded industry lobbyists whose clients have every interest in avoiding a public option that would give Americans a genuine choice. This all leaves Congress – and specifically, the determination of the Progressive Caucus – as the only hope for forcing thru genuine reform at this time.

It’s not at all clear to me why you have refrained from signing the pledge along with the vast majority of your caucus. This is such an obvious progressive cause – indeed, perhaps, the single most important one. And so, I’m writing to implore you to add your name to those of your colleagues who have committed to doing the right thing. Do so proudly; making that public statement at this time sends a strong signal that the Progressive Caucus votes cannot simply be taken for granted. Do so secure in the knowledge that it will send a clear message of your true commitment to your constituents ahead of the ’10 elections. Show us that a health care reform bill that gives the average American a genuine alternative to the dismal current system is a real priority for you, too, and that you’re not going to accept a watered-down and meaningless compromise.

I was impressed with your vote on the War Appropriations bill recently, and I’d be heartened to see you take a similarly courageous stance on a matter than affects us all even more.


(Photo of a brave hippie — braver than so many of the so-called Progressives who claim to represent us liberals in Congress — taken by the truly amazing Deanne Fitzmaurice shooting for the SF Chronicle — check out the rest of her incredible stuff here)