Stephen Lynch maybe changes his mind

Ok.  People do change their minds.  They evolve, as President Obama has said about his position on gay marriage.  But if you change your mind, you need to actually change your mind, not just kinda change it because it is politically expedient.

We have all known for years that Representative Stephen Lynch is against abortion.  He has famously referred to himself as a pro-life Democrat.  And unlike the pro-choice Republicans, the Democratic party has not run him out of town.  But, that is not a winning position outside of his Southie constituency.  He is one of them and, so far, that has been enough to keep him in Congress.  Lynch now says that abortion should be legal but rare. So today the Boston Globe ran this story

US Representative Stephen F. Lynch, who has consistently described himself as an antiabortion legislator, said Monday that he believes abortion is a constitutionally protected right and that as a US senator he would actively oppose anti­abortion nominees to the Supreme Court.

Forces on both sides of the issue charge that Lynch is shifting his stance as he tries to expand beyond his socially conservative political base in South Boston to a liberal statewide primary.

“He’s trying to have it both ways,” said Megan Amundson, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, a group backing abortion rights.

Anne Fox, president of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, the state’s leading antiabortion group, pointed out that when Lynch was representing South Boston in the state Senate, he had a 100 percent voting ­record from her group. When he ran for Congress in 2001, her group mailed out postcards urging voters to support him.

Now, Lynch is vowing to protect Roe v. Wade.

“Apparently, that’s what they think they’re supposed to do, politicians with their eyes on higher office, at least in Massachusetts,” Fox said.

It seems that no one is happy with him now.

To give Lynch some credit, he voted against Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood noting that the work they do helps reduce the number of abortions.

But Mr. Lynch, you need to do better than

“I don’t oppose it. I accept, I guess.” – Feb. 4, 2013, Globe interview, speaking of Roe v. Wade.

Interesting move against an opponent, Representative Ed Markey, who has been publically pro-choice since 1983.  But I think Lynch may reflect the confusion of a lot of voters.  As I said, it will be interesting.

Official congressional portrait of Stephen F. ...

Official congressional portrait of Stephen F. Lynch, member of the , in the 110th Congress. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sunday morning health care and basketball

I’m like about 90% of the country (including the President) waking up to find out that Kansas really did lose.   I watched the game, but still hoped it would be different this morning.  Yesterday was a disaster for my bracket:  I lost both Kansas and BYU from my final four and the only reason I haven’t lost Duke and Kentucky is they haven’t had their games yet.  March Madness a few years ago was like this:  upset after upset.  Great games, but hell on one’s picks.  At this point, I’m just watching to see what happens next.

And we are also watching health care to see what happens next.  The Republican/Tea Party folks must know they are going to lose.  Yesterday they showed their true colors.  The story in the Washington Post by Paul Kane begins

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus said that racial epithets were hurled at them Saturday by angry protesters who had gathered at the Capitol to protest health-care legislation, and one congressman said he was spit upon. The most high-profile openly gay congressman, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), was heckled with anti-gay chants.

Republican members of Congress addressed the crowd both before and after the incident.  Where were they to control their followers?

Democratic leaders and their aides said they were outraged by the day’s behavior. “I have heard things today that I have not heard since March 15, 1960, when I was marching to get off the back of the bus,” said House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), the highest-ranking black official in Congress.

Between race (I believe that the opposition to anything proposed by President Obama and the wanting to see him fail is simply because the Republicans can’t stomach having a black man in the White House.) and abortion (The opposition to a woman’s right to choose stems, I think, from a deep seeded belief that women are incapable of having their own religious convictions or of making a rational decision), I worry what happens during the fall campaigns.

So I have to turn to Paul Krugman’s column earlier this week to remind myself what we are trying to do.

So this seems like a good time to revisit the reasons we need this reform, imperfect as it is.

As it happens, Reuters published an investigative report this week that powerfully illustrates the vileness of our current system. The report concerns the insurer Fortis, now part of Assurant Health, which turns out to have had a systematic policy of revoking its clients’ policies when they got sick. In particular, according to the Reuters report, it targeted every single policyholder who contracted H.I.V., looking for any excuse, no matter how flimsy, for cancellation. In the case that brought all this to light, Assurant Health used an obviously misdated handwritten note by a nurse, who wrote “2001” instead of “2002,” to claim that the infection was a pre-existing condition that the client had failed to declare, and revoked his policy.

This was illegal, and the company must have known it: the South Carolina Supreme Court, after upholding a decision granting large damages to the wronged policyholder, concluded that the company had been systematically concealing its actions when withdrawing coverage, not just in this case, but across the board.

But this is much more than a law enforcement issue. For one thing, it’s an example those who castigate President Obama for “demonizing” insurance companies should consider. The truth, widely documented, is that behavior like Assurant Health’s is widespread for a simple reason: it pays. A House committee estimated that Assurant made $150 million in profits between 2003 and 2007 by canceling coverage of people who thought they had insurance, a sum that dwarfs the fine the court imposed in this particular case. It’s not demonizing insurers to describe what they actually do.

Beyond that, this is a story that could happen only in America. In every other advanced nation, insurance coverage is available to everyone regardless of medical history. Our system is unique in its cruelty.

And one more thing: employment-based health insurance, which is already regulated in a way that mostly prevents this kind of abuse, is unraveling. Less than half of workers at small businesses were covered last year, down from 58 percent a decade ago. This means that in the absence of reform, an ever-growing number of Americans will be at the mercy of the likes of Assurant Health.

So what’s the answer? Americans overwhelmingly favor guaranteeing coverage to those with pre-existing conditions — but you can’t do that without pursuing broad-based reform. To make insurance affordable, you have to keep currently healthy people in the risk pool, which means requiring that everyone or almost everyone buy coverage. You can’t do that without financial aid to lower-income Americans so that they can pay the premiums. So you end up with a tripartite policy: elimination of medical discrimination, mandated coverage, and premium subsidies.

Or to put it another way, you end up with something like the health care plan Mitt Romney introduced in Massachusetts in 2006, and the very similar plan the House either will or won’t pass in the next few days. Comprehensive reform is the only way forward.

Krugman concludes

Can you imagine a better reform? Sure. If Harry Truman had managed to add health care to Social Security back in 1947, we’d have a better, cheaper system than the one whose fate now hangs in the balance. But an ideal plan isn’t on the table. And what is on the table, ready to go, is legislation that is fiscally responsible, takes major steps toward dealing with rising health care costs, and would make us a better, fairer, more decent nation.

All it will take to make this happen is for a handful of on-the-fence House members to do the right thing. Here’s hoping.

Are you rethinking your position Stephen Lynch?  And what about you, Rick Boucher in Virginia?  Do either of you really want to be the vote that kills Health Care Reform?

One day before the House votes on health care

It is Saturday afternoon.  The Tar Heels won their NIT game, my NCAA bracket is doing so-so. and the Sox won.  There is a lot going on including the all important countdown to 216 votes in the House.

A couple of things have happened.  President Obama has made his “remember why you are a Democrat” speech (or maybe it is live up to Abe Lincoln) before the House Democratic Caucus.  There are sufficient votes in the Senate for the bill as it will be amended by the House and it looks like Nancy Pelosi will get to 216 sometime before tomorrow’s votes if she is not already there.  The picture and the quotes that follow are from the New York Times Prescriptions blog.

President Barack Obama met with House Democrats on Capitol Hill to discuss health insurance reform legislation, Saturday, March 20, 2010 in Washington

“You have a chance to make good on the promises you made,” Mr. Obama said. “This is one of those moments. This is one of those times where you can honestly say to yourself: ‘Doggone it, this is exactly why I came here. This is why I got into politics. This is why I got into public service. This is why I made these sacrifices.’ ”

“Every single one of you have made that promise not just to your constituents but to yourself,” he added. “This is the time to make good on this promise.”

He had opened his speech by quoting Lincoln

“I am not bound to win but I am bound to be true,” he said.

I have to believe that once the bill is passed and signed and benefits begin to kick in there will be support for the bill.  I really liked the President’s characterization of the the Republican’s trying to get Democrats to vote no.

“I notice that there has been a lot of friendly advice offered all across town,” he said. “Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Karl Rove — they are all warning you of the horrendous impact if you support this legislation.”

He continued, “Now, it could be that they are suddenly having a change of heart, and they are deeply concerned about their democratic friends. They are giving you the best possible advice in order to ensure that Nancy Pelosi remains speaker and Harry Reid remains leader and all of you keep your seats — that’s a possibility.”

Mr. Obama chuckled at himself, and lawmakers in the audience laughed.

“But it may also be possible that they realize that after health reform passes and I sign that legislation into law, it’s going to be a little harder to mischaracterize what this legislation has been all about,” he said.

So with all this, what is going on the Representative Stephen Lynch?  Lynch represents the part of Boston not represented by my Rep, Mike Capuano, who is voting “yes”.  Lynch has announced that he is voting “no” because the bill does not do enough to control the cost of insurance.  There is a lot of pressure on him by the local unions, include SEIU of which I am a member.  According to the Boston Globe

More than 20 Massachusetts labor leaders made a last-ditch appeal to US Representative Stephen F. Lynch late yesterday, urging him to “do the right thing’’ and vote for a national health care overhaul.

In a letter delivered to Lynch’s South Boston office, the group suggested a vote against the bill would damage his standing with their membership.

Lynch, a former president of Ironworkers Local 7, declared Thursday that he will vote against the health care bill. He said the current bill does not do enough to force insurance companies to reduce costs.

“Congressman, we will not be able to explain to the working women and men of our union why you voted against their interests,’’ the letter states. “We have stood together time and time again and you have made an enormous difference.’’

“It takes courage to make history,’’ they wrote. “We know that you have always had the courage to do the right thing — national health reform is the right thing for Massachusetts families. Please stand with us once again and do the right thing.’’

It looks like he will join Senator Scott Brown in being the two “no” votes from Massachusetts.

Another Republican objection disappeared this afternoon when the House Rules committee decided against “deeming” and will now hold two votes.  As explained in the Washington Post

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said the House will take three votes on Sunday: first, on a resolution that will set the terms of debate; second, on a package of amendments to the Senate bill that have been demanded by House members; and third, on the Senate bill itself.

Van Hollen, who has been working on the issue with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), said House leaders concluded that that order — approving the amendments before approving the Senate bill — makes clear that the House intends to modify the Senate bill and not approve the Senate bill itself.

“We believe this is a better process,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said of the vote strategy. “We determined we could do this. . . . We believe we have the votes.”

This is all possible because Senator Reid has done his head count and has the votes to pass the reconciled bill.

I think we will know who the 216 votes will be by tomorrow morning.

And before I retire to watch basketball (do you believe that St. Mary’s beat Villanova?! ) here is a link to the amendments the House will be making to the Senate bill.