One step closer…

December 21, 2009, 9:06 am | Posted by

When the Senate voted for cloture on the manager’s amendment on healthcare reform in the wee hours this morning, we cleared yet another hurdle to improving the health and financial security of millions of Americans. Although the abortion compromise and the demise of the public option have opened divisions among supporters of reform, we’ve never been this close to health reform, and we’re still on the move even though the bill isn’t perfect. There’s simply too much at stake for the 30 million uninsured Americans and millions more who pay too much for insurance that delivers too little.

For me personally, the effort has been really inspiring and educational. FPL, Faithful America, and great partners such as PICO, Sojourners, Catholics United, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, Faithful Reform in Healthcare, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, NETWORK and numerous denominational leaders have been pulling together on this for months now. I’ve only been working in this community for a little more than three years now, but this is by far the biggest, most innovative team effort in which I’ve ever taken part. Collectively, we’ve run radio and tv ads, met with Members of Congress and their staffs, generated many thousands of phone calls and emails to Congressional offices, held press conferences that have received local and national media attention, had a national call-in program with faith leaders and President Obama (which has been listened to online 300,000 times), appeared on cable tv numerous times, published op-eds, held vigils and worships services for reform, and worked with secular partners to keep reform moving past countless hurdles. There are more to come, so we won’t rest just yet, but the finish line is in sight.

add a comment »

Nebraska Faith Leaders for Health Care Reform

December 18, 2009, 11:34 am | Posted by

Sen. Nelson says he’s waiting to hear how Nebraska groups will react to the health care compromise. Well, looks like he won’t have to wait much longer.

In a great OpEd in the the Omaha World-Herald Father Bert Thelen, Rev. Jane Florence and Rev. David Lux call on Nelson to support “systematic change” in our healthcare system. Representative quote:

We turn to U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson, knowing he stands with us as a person of faith. As governor, he left a lasting and important legacy of strong public insurance programs such as Kids Connection and CHIP, which provides insurance to thousands of Nebraskans who would otherwise join the uninsured.

Now we turn to him again to leave another legacy: health care for all Nebraskans. If we can fix the broken health care system, we can ensure that Nelson’s legacy in Nebraska is continued with his vote this year to pass health reform.

This comes hot on the heels of the Catholic Health Association’s recent praise of Sen. Casey’s abortion compromise. The CHA represents 20 hospitals in Nebraska.

You can read the entire clergy OpEd here. Here’s hoping Sen. Nelson does.

add a comment »

A Time for Honesty

December 17, 2009, 6:45 pm | Posted by

Health care reform is at a tipping point. With tens of thousands of lives at stake, it’s important to get the facts straight — particularly when it comes to abortion, the issue that looks to be key to securing Senator Nelson’s vote.

So it’s more than unfortunate that the Family Research Council has inaccurately described Senator Casey’s compromise language on abortion. In today’s Washington Update FRC calls on Nelson to reject the compromise saying that, “instead of an outright ban, the Casey plan would shuffle money around-but still pay for the procedure out of a taxpayer pool.” (Emphasis added.)

This is false. Casey’s proposal explicitly stipulates that no federal funds may pay for abortions — and not even private premium dollars from individuals who opt out of abortion coverage can be used to fund abortions.

This is the same principle which allows government money to pay for books and desks at Catholic schools, but not religious education. And it is a principle strong enough to earn the praise of the Catholic Health Association.

FRC’s slippery “taxpayer pool” language is dishonest, at best, and does a disservice to this crucial debate.

add a comment »

#2 storyline of 2009!

December 16, 2009, 2:45 pm | Posted by

As 2009 draws to a close, the Religion Newswriters Association took a moment to look back and vote on what they thought were the top religion stories of the year. President Obama’s landmark speech in Cairo was #1 on the list. Second on the list was the role of faith groups in the health care debate. From the results:

2. Health-care reform, the No. 1 topic in Congress for most of the year, involves faith-based groups appealing strongly for action to help “the least of these,” and others, such as the Roman Catholic bishops, for restrictions on abortion funding.

We’ve spent much of 2009 working to lift up the voices a wide swath of faith groups and leaders dedicated to making quality healthcare affordable for all American families; I’m glad the media took note!

add a comment »

Lieberman, Judaism and healthcare reform

December 15, 2009, 12:45 pm | Posted by

Yesterday it was impossible not to notice that Joe Lieberman’s renewed threat to filibuster healthcare reform made him the center of attention across the blogosphere. (My favorite commentary on the topic was Ezra Klein’s post arguing that we do ourselves a disservice by tiptoeing around the life-and-death consequences of a filibuster of the reform bill.) Today, David Gibson added a religious angle to the conversation at Politics Daily. In addition to recounting Jewish leaders’ efforts to dissuade Lieberman from blocking healthcare reform, Gibson draws on Nathan Guttman, Mark Silk, Jon Chait and Lieberman’s autobiography, concluding:

In the end, it’s unclear exactly what influence Lieberman’s Judaism, or his fellow Jews, could have on his political decisions. These days, arguments over the good or bad faith in a pol’s position are often associated with Roman Catholicism. But Judaism has no eucharist to withhold, no effective way to excommunicate an adherent, no real hierarchy to lay down the law — and no widespread desire to implement any of those mechanisms. In fact, a hallmark of Judaism is disputation, so in a sense the arguments between Lieberman and his critics are only cementing their claims to being members of the tribe. Whether those debates seal the fate of health care reform will ultimately be decided on the floor of the Congress.

For a convincing counterpoint to Lieberman’s signaled willingness to kill reform, have a look at David Saperstein’s remarks at the Capitol today.

add a comment »