We left the house early today so we could meet with Congressman Welch's HCR point person in Burlington before my classes. Third time's a charm, it seems: our previous attempts had been aborted by literal and figurative weather (snow storm first, then Ericka's being ill).
We chatted with Susan Elliot for almost a quarter hour, though a few minutes were spent oohing and aahing over our newest activist. Last time we'd gotten together--a follow-up to our August group lobbying action--Sam still had a few weeks to cook, so it was nice to make official introductions. The boy was his usual charming self, dressed to kill and very alert.
Anyway, we got some helpful intel from our meeting. There is, unsurprisingly, a lot of frustration on the House side, especially amongst staff. They worked so hard to get HR3200 out the door--flaws notwithstanding--and it's gone nowhere thanks to the Democrats' lack of 120 votes in the Senate to pass anything.
They definitely are "spinning off" as many smaller bills as they can to get whatever benefits are possible no matter what the fate of the Senate's Frankenstein monster. A decent, albeit unsatisfying hedge from where we sit because we at least get the truly good things without the other baggage like mandates that entrench the insurance companies.
Peter's still playing it close to the vest about how he might vote on whatever comes out of the sausage machine. Readers might recall that he--rightly, I think--didn't want to be painted into a corner with the pledge Credo/FDL wanted Members to sign.
So it's unclear if he and other progs will stand firm or fall into the "pass something" trap, watered down PO or not. Susan reaffirmed Peter's pro-choice stance, but it doesn't look like he'll vote against a bill that contains Stupak/Nelson language. We expressed our concern about women being thrown under the bus, and our preference to kill the bill entirely to push HR676, which we also acknowledged is not a likely thing. Still, you gotta weigh in.
The best news we got was that our entire Congressional delegation is working closely with Vermont Legislators on our single-payer efforts. And it looks like stimulus monies might actually help grease the skids, though they will run out in June of 2011. After that our health programs will be running a deficit like the rest of our state services, but there's talk of a sweetened beverage tax that will help cut down on obesity-related health problems and make up a significant bit of the anticipated shortfall.
Susan agreed that with Racine and Shumlin salivating over the Dem nomination and Governor's seat, there's a fire lit to get single-payer done here. Racine and his committee in particular were able to punt the issue last year, hoping to leave any "reform" up to DC Democrats and their Overwhelming Yet Strangely Impotent Majority. Now they have to deal with this since Congress has screwed the pooch and thus will be quite motivated, but we must up the pressure all the same (more on that later).
On the whole it was another positive meeting, disheartening with regard to the national scene, encouraging at the state level. Despite the many challenges ahead, we came out of the Congressman's office feeling re-energized knowing that we've got real opportunities for change and even if we're not reading about it in the news, there is good stuff happening in the background that can bear fruit.