Obama: We can't fix the economy without fixing health care

Strong words from President-elect Barack Obama at yesterday’s press conference introducing Tom Daschle as Secretary of Health and Human Services:

Some may ask how, at this moment of economic challenge, we can afford to invest in reforming our health care system. Well, I ask a different question — I ask how we can afford not to….If we want to overcome our economic challenges, we must also finally address our health care challenge.

Obama also promised to address health care “this year,” implying that he will spend political capital to get a plan through Congress in 2009.

Daschle linked health care reform to economic recovery:

Addressing our health care challenges will not only mean healthier and longer lives for millions it will also make American companies more competitive, address the cause of half of all of our personal bankruptcies and foreclosures and help pull our economy out of its current tailspin.

Obama also named Jeanne Lambrew as Daschle’s deputy. Ezra Klein is very pleased with that pick:

Lambrew is an incredibly talented and knowledgeable health wonk, and her involvement should cheer liberals. Unlike during the campaign, when Obama’s health care team seemed heavy on relatively cautious academics, Lambrew has long White House and executive branch experience, and comes to health care as a crusade as much as a topic of study. As Jon Cohn says, the importance of her presence “goes beyond the fact that she happens to know a heck of a lot about health care. She, too, has a strong commitment to what you might call the ‘social justice’ side of the debate.”

For more from Lambrew, check out her congressional testimony from late October, where she argued that “the short-run economic crisis has health policy causes and effects-and arguably the most serious long-run economic challenge is our broken health care system.” That was almost exactly the message Obama delivered today. And it’s the message that will be heard in the White House, and translated into a political strategy by Tom Daschle.

In this article for The American Prospect, Klein compares Obama’s team of “health care heavyweights” to Bill Clinton’s disastrous strategy for pushing health care reform in 1993 and 1994.

The major battle will be making sure there is some public insurance plan Americans can opt into, so that private insurers will need to cover health care in order to compete for customers.

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Dodd Most Progressive on Bankruptcy Reform

eRiposte at The Left Coaster has a very comprehensive analysis of where the various current and former Senator-candidates stood on various pieces of bankruptcy reform legislation. The post covers the 2000, 2002, and 2005 Bankruptcy Bills and compares Senators Dodd, Clinton, Edwards, Obama, and Biden — with Senators Lieberman and Feingold included as well for comparison. The focus of eRiposte's analysis is on the 2001 and 2005 Bankruptcy Bills, which had the majority of this group of senators around to vote on it.

On the 2001 Bankruptcy Bill, eRiposte says this:

Sen. Dodd (and Sen. Feingold) had the best voting record on this version of the Bill. They voted the progressive position on almost every amendment, but more importantly, also voted against cloture (which has the effect of supporting a filibuster) and voted against the Bill at the end.

On the 2005 Bankruptcy Bill, eRiposte finds a similarly strong performance for Dodd ahead of the field:

Senator Dodd again had the best, and an essentially perfect, voting record on this Bill. He voted in favor of numerous progressive amendments, voted against invoking cloture and voted against the final Bill.

In conclusion, eRiposte finds Dodd to be the measuring stick for all other Democratic candidates when it comes to bankruptcy reform:

In this post, I compared the voting records of key Democratic Presidential candidates on the topic of the Bankruptcy Bill. I reviewed the final vote on the Bankruptcy Bill of 2000, and the final vote and amendments/motions associated with the 2001 and 2005 Bankruptcy bills. The main findings are as follows:

1. Senator Chris Dodd has the best, and a near-perfect, voting record on Bankruptcy legislation. He has been consistently and strongly progressive on the topic of Bankruptcy “reform” at least since 2000. [Emphasis in the original in all quoted passages]

Dodd's record is clear and it's also worth noting that earlier this month he committed to reversing the worst parts of the bankruptcy bill. He will be introducing a more comprehensive plan in the coming weeks.

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