I love Democrats with balls. They’re a rare breed, but they do exist. And, occasionally, if you’re real lucky, you can spot one on television. This weekend, I caught a glimpse of one on ABC News. It was Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell. And, he wasn’t mincing words. His advice to Democrats in Congress? Put up the best healthcare bill you can, he said, and “make the Republican filibuster.” Here’s a video clip:
I just wish one of my elected officials would have the balls to stand up and say something this simple and beautiful: “My message to those Democrats is don’t be afraid,” said Rendell. “Listen, you got elected because you wanted to do something to change the quality of people’s lives – here we have a chance to do something historic and if it means some of us are going to lose because of that so be it. At least you will have lost your office fighting for something and accomplishing something.”
But, will Obama step up to the challenge? That’s the question. And, last night, in an interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer he was asked. Unfortunately, though, he didn’t really answer the question… Here’s a clip from the transcript:
SAWYER: Two diametrically opposing paths have been laid out by your supporters. One is come out swinging, go down for history, let everyone — let the Republicans filibuster and do it and the other is slow down, scale back, less money. Which is it going to be?
OBAMA: Well, you know, I reject those two polar opposites. Here’s what I can tell you. I will not slow down in terms of going after the big problems that this country faces because other countries aren’t slow(ing) down.
SAWYER: But it’s about money…
OBAMA: Asia is not slowing down. Europe’s not slowing down. They’re worried about getting the competitive advantage in terms of clean energy. They’re worried about their kids. Our health-care system is unsustainable.
So on the big issues, I am going to keep on pushing not because I welcome controversy. The easiest thing for me to do — the easiest thing for me to do, Diane, would be to go small bore, avoid controversy, just make sure that everybody’s comfortable and we only propose things that don’t threaten any special interests in Washington.
If you do that, then you can get a boost in the poll numbers but, ultimately, you’re not solving problems that are vital to making sure the American dream continues for the next generation. And I don’t want to look back on my time here and say to myself, all I was concerned about was nurturing my own popularity. That’s not why I came.
And so the one thing that I think — whether it’s supporters or opponents — should know is that I am not backing off the need for us to tackle these big problems in a serious way….
And, lastly, for some good background on the filibuster, how it negatively impacts democracy today, and what our options are going forward, check out this article from Think Progress… Here’s a clip:
While it is now taken for granted than any major piece of legislation needs 60 votes to pass the Senate, this has not always been the case. Use of the filibuster — the minority’s tactic to halt action on a bill through endless debate — has skyrocketed in the past two decades, creating a de facto need for 60 votes to get anything done. It only requires 51 votes to pass any bill, but it takes 60 votes to invoke cloture to end debate and pass the bill. There are now double the number of cloture votes as there were a decade ago, and triple the numbers of 20 years ago. As evidenced by the ongoing health care reform debate, the filibuster cripples the Senate’s ability to make progress. The filibuster also gives a undue amount of power to individual senators and allows them to exploit the process for their narrow interests, dictating policy outcomes. For instance, Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (I-CT) threat to filibuster health care reform forced the removal of the public option and the Medicare buy-in, despite their tremendous popularity…
I’m tired of being afraid of 41 Republicans and a Lieberman. How about you?