Name the Public Option After Kennedy, Not a Watered Down Bill

The temptation to name the health care reform bill after fallen health care champion Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) is as understandable as it is overwhelming. But with the bill currently still at the mercy of players who are, shall we say, not as clearly dedicated to a product that offers the kind of help Kennedy envisioned, I suggest that we not offer them the opportunity to attach his name to anything less than a bill he would have fought for.


So while it's undoubtedly in that spirit that the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and others have begun their drive to honor Kennedy's memory by demanding that the HELP Committee's bill be passed and named after him, I suggest that it serves us and the Senator's memory better if our essential element -- a strong public option -- carries his name instead.

I suggest this because I expect the temptation will be equally overwhelming to attach Kennedy's name to a bill that's been significantly weakened in the process of merging competing versions in each house, and then again in conference between the House and Senate, even if that bill might not have met with his approval.

Put Kennedy's name on a weakened bill, and you'll likely be able to break the progressive bloc in the House in two seconds flat when "the Kennedy bill" comes out of conference with the individual mandate but no public option, and progressives are faced with having to oppose "the Kennedy bill." As strong as they've been on holding firm in their demands, putting the Kennedy name on a weak bill -- and remember, nothing at all prevents this -- can only drain their resolve.

That uncomfortable dilemma should be reserved for those who would oppose the vision Kennedy championed. They should be forced to stand and vote against the inclusion of "the Kennedy Plan" in the bill if that's what they insist on, rather than putting Kennedy's natural allies on the spot and forcing them to choose between the empty act of supporting a bill that happens to carry his name and the vote of principle that he himself might have cast in opposition to an inadequate measure.

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