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.

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And so the debate begins…again

November 23, 2009, 4:47 pm | Posted by

In a tally that foreshadows significant challenges ahead for healthcare reform, the Senate mustered 60 votes to avert a filibuster of letting the debate begin. The accompanying warnings from Sens. Lincoln, Lieberman and Nelson that they’d join a filibuster of any bill with a public option will necessarily make that the focal point of negotiation and commentary, but as I’ve noted before, affordability standards are a matter of no small consequence to people of faith.

On this issue, the Senate bill falls shy of the House bill’s provisions for low-income families, and in two of the bottom three income brackets provides lower subsidies than even the Senate Finance Committee’s bill. Amidst more high profile issues, let’s hope the Senate keeps in mind the very basic principle that if we’re going to require people to buy insurance, we must make sure that they can afford it.

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Senate introduces reform bill, faith leaders step up advocacy for quality, affordable healthcare

November 19, 2009, 2:29 pm | Posted by

As Sen. Reid unveiled the Senate healthcare reform bill and the chamber prepares for a weekend vote to open floor debate on health care reform legislation, local pastors and lay leaders from Louisiana, Nebraska, Michigan, Colorado and other key states are on Capitol Hill meeting with Senate offices to make the moral case for reform that extends quality, affordable healthcare to all American families.

In addition to today’s visits, clergy and lay leaders will be holding conference calls and meetings in the coming days and weeks with Sens. Landrieu, Conrad and Dorgan, as well as Sen. Ben Nelson’s Chief of Staff, urging them to support reform and highlighting the devastating impact on families in their states if reform fails to pass.

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FRC scales back attack on Rep. DeGette

November 18, 2009, 1:44 pm | Posted by

The Family Research Council has issued a correction of their press release yesterday that accused Congresswoman DeGette of “religious bigotry” based on a misquotation. Good for them.

However, after acknowledging the inaccuracy of yesterday’s attack they slammed her again, saying

“However, Rep. DeGette accused the Catholic Bishops of controlling the outcome of the health care legislation and also accused them and other conservative Christians of violating the ‘wall of separation’ between church and state.

If they’re basing that charge on DeGette’s ABC interview from yesterday, that’s still a rather dubious charge, as her remarks contained no reference to the Catholic Bishops “controlling the outcome.” But I won’t assume FRC is basing the entirety of their accusation on that interview, even though they don’t cite any others.

Again, here’s a transcript of Rep. DeGette’s remarks to ABC (ellipses indicate beginning of responses to new questions):

“I gotta tell you, last I heard we had separation of church and state. I don’t think the Catholic bishops are in charge of writing our healthcare bill. I think that they are one of many groups that we should listen to, but in the end they should be concerned that 36 million more people in this country will get healthcare. Many of them are their parishioners.”

…”I’m not going to comment on what happened with the leadership.”

…”I’ve got to say that I think that the Catholic bishops and all of the other groups should have input, but in the end what we need to do is have healthcare for 36 million Americans and not take away rights people have right now to get full reproductive care.”

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FRC falsely accuses Member of Congress of ‘religious bigotry’

November 17, 2009, 7:00 pm | Posted by

Earlier this evening the Family Research Council sent out a press release with the headline “FRC Calls On President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, and Senator Reid to Repudiate Diana DeGette’s Religious Bigotry,” which stated

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins today called on President Obama and Congressional leaders to repudiate comments made by U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) to The Hill’s Michael O’Brien that “religiously-affiliated groups…should be shut out of the process” in the health care debate because of their support for the Stupak/Pitts amendment. She told The Hill, “Last I heard, we had separation of church and state in this country,” she said. “I’ve got to say that I think the Catholic bishops and all of the other groups shouldn’t have input.”

Two problems with that.

1) ) Congresswoman DeGette’s remarks didn’t come from an interview with The Hill’s Michael O’Brien. Rather, they came from O’Brien’s report about DeGette’s appearance on ABC News’s “Top Line” broadcast today.

2) In that Top Line appearance, Congresswoman DeGette said religious groups should have input in the debate.

The Hill has issued a correction of their story. FRC should do the same.

I can understand why FRC would want to rebuke a Member of Congress for claiming that people of faith should be excluded from a political debate. What I can’t understand is sending out a press release calling on the President of the United States and Congressional leaders to denounce a Congresswoman’s “religious bigotry” without even bothering to check what the alleged bigot actually said. That doesn’t take too much effort — all you have to do is watch the video, which is easily found on the ABC News homepage. Accusing a public official of bigotry is serious business, and should be done cautiously, not opportunistically.

Here’s a transcript of the portion of her interview that dealt with religious groups’ role in the healthcare reform debate:

“I gotta tell you, last I heard we had separation of church and state. I don’t think the Catholic bishops are in charge of writing our healthcare bill. I think that they are one of many groups that we should listen to, but in the end they should be concerned that 36 million more people in this country will get healthcare. Many of them are their parishioners.”

…”I’m not going to comment on what happened with the leadership.”

…”I’ve got to say that I think that the Catholic bishops and all of the other groups should have input, but in the end what we need to do is have healthcare for 36 million Americans and not take away rights people have right now to get full reproductive care.”

Video of the interview is available here. Congresswoman DeGette’s segment begins at the -5:53 mark, and the discussion about the bishops begins at the -1:12 mark.

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