18 June 2009

Alliance for Retired Americans - 2009 Legislative Conference - Day 4

Washington D.C. (Liberation City) - 6/18/09

Alliance for Retired Americans 2009 Legislative Conference - Day Four

Let's do a quick review of our lobbying efforts yesterday.

Our first visit was with a member of Senator John Cornyn's staff, Emily Dillard, Legislative Correspondent. It went about as expected. Senator Cornyn is adamantly opposed to any form of a Public Option which leaves no room for give and take on this critical and essential component of health care reform. I find this especially unfortunate since the Democrats have all but taken Single Payer off the table and that there cannot be any further concessions.

I told Emily that my perspective was that if we could not get a Public Option as a part of the package that I would be willing to let the current planning burn and melt and make the 2010 elections about health care and see how far the GOP would get with that.

She did allow as to how the Senator might support some expansion and change to Medicare but not altering Part D or opening it up to 55 - 64 year-olds. One wanted to argue these points, but how does one argue with someone who truly believes that Part D is a success story. I guess if you tell the lie often and loud enough you actually begin to believe it yourself. Personally, I try not to spit into wind, so we left it at that.

My suggestion for follow up: Call and write the Senator and let him feel the pain of your outrage.

My next meeting was with Senator Bailey-Hutchison and got a chance to catch her in the hall to talk briefly with her directly before being turned over to a staffer. Of the day, this was the most positive meeting. After our brief hallway chat, I met with Laura Bunton, the Senator's Legislative Correspondent.

Here's why I say this meeting was positive despite the fact that I could get no commitment or position statement. Laura said, in effect, that the Senator is waiting for the final version before she takes a position. I think what this really means is that she is planning to run for Governor of Texas and, since there is no way for her to get to the right of Perry, she is going to have to position herself in a way that can appeal to moderate Republicans and Democrats which means she will have to, at the very least, take a non-obstructionist if not supportive position on the President's health care plan.

My suggestion: Call and write and help her choose the supportive role if she expects to whip Perry.

The last meeting of the day was with Congressman, Jeb Hensarling, who concurs that a fix is needed for a badly broken system. And while he agrees with some of the basic elements of reform such as portability, affordability and getting coverage for the uninsured he takes the standard GOP position that this can best be effected through private insurers rather than government programs.

I reminded him that Medicare and Social Security are incredibly successful "government programs" and that it was the private insurance industry that helped put us in this fix. We left it that we would agree to disagree.

Suggested action: The congressman must hear from his constituency about their support of a public plan. Letters, phone calls and personal visits to his local offices are encouraged.

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