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Health Care Reform: We Don’t Stop Here

Ted Kennedy wasn’t there to see it.

Instead, it was Democrats’ loss of his seat that sent the Senate’s health care bill through the House of Representatives mostly unchanged yesterday, causing, among other things, a hissy fit by a clique of older white men who decided that their right to rant about the unborn babies that might possibly be aborted by women with health insurance was more important than the rights of born (and grown up and working) people to have health insurance.

They didn’t succeed in stopping the bill. No, Bart Stupak and his coterie managed to finagle an executive order out of Obama upholding the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funds from being used for abortion. Even with that, they still got called “baby killers” on the House floor—by a Republican rep who had no intention of voting for the bill.

Indeed, no Republican voted for the bill. 34 Democrats also voted against the bill, a vastly watered-down piece of legislation that nevertheless will provide health insurance for some 32 million people (almost a million people for each Democrat who voted against it—interesting, no?) who don’t already have access.

I don’t mean to be a downer, though. Last night, I sat in a bar and toasted with friends with whom I canvassed, called, and organized for Obama leading up to the election, friends with whom I knocked back shots of Jack Daniels on election night 2008 and felt just for a moment that change was possible. We had the poor bartender turning the volume off and on on the TV, tuned to CSPAN, over and over again, drowning out the insincere laments for the unborn—think of the BABIES—and cheering Nancy Pelosi’s declaration that health care will now be enshrined in law as a right, not a privilege.

Of course, to truly create health care as a right we’d have to move from a system of requiring people to buy insurance to a system that provides care to all, but let me stop nitpicking. Really. Even Noam Chomsky said he’d have held his nose and voted for the bill, were he in Congress.

It’s a major victory for the Democrats, after all. In the face of rock-solid Republican opposition and dissent within the party over issues that should be taken for granted, an insurgent social movement and an entire cable news network, they passed one of the most important pieces of legislation in many of our lifetimes. Members of Congress who fought for the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act, who were there to vote for Medicare and Medicaid, called it such, as they acknowledged its (large) limitations.

Read the rest at Global Comment.