Putting process ahead of people

PUTTING PROCESS AHEAD OF PEOPLE…. Rep. Frank Kratovil (D-Md.) represents a district that’s historically been unfriendly to Democrats. It was, for example, Kratovil who was hung in effigy by right-wing activists last summer, outside his district office.

It wasn’t especially surprising, then, when Kratovil, one of Congress’s least progressive and most vulnerable Democrats, voted against health care reform last November. Earlier this week, however, his office suggested that Kratovil is open to considering the more moderate Senate bill.

Now he’s making clear that he does not intend to change his mind. It’s his reasoning, though, that seemed odd.

“He would vote against it,” the spokesman, Kevin Lawlor, says. Crucially, Kratovil would vote against the Senate bill even if there’s some kind of verbal guarantee that it would be fixed via reconciliation later, Lawlor says.

The only way Kratovil — one of the targets of a barrage of NRCC robocalls hammering the reform proposals as “dangerous” — could support the Senate bill is if it’s fixed first via reconciliation, before the House votes on it. But no one expects this to happen.

Here’s hoping that Kratovil’s reasoning goes far beyond this, because if he’s willing to see health care reform die over this procedural issue, he’s both foolish and callous.

I’m trying to imagine how a lawmaker goes back to his district and says, “Sorry, struggling families and businesses getting screwed by the dysfunctional health care system. I was considering supporting a solution to this mess, but I couldn’t — I wanted one chamber to go first, not the other. So, you’re screwed. Good luck.”

Maybe now would be a good time to remind some lawmakers that the issue here goes beyond institutional rivalries, polls, attack ads, hurt feelings, and parochial piques. Real people are struggling. There are families that can’t get coverage because of a pre-existing condition, and they need a champion. There are small businesses that can’t afford coverage for their employees, and they need a champion. There are entrepreneurs who want to start a business but can’t because the premiums are unaffordable, families facing bankruptcy because their insurers dropped them when they needed help most, industrious workers whose wages have been stuck while health care costs rise, single moms waiting tables who can’t afford to buy coverage on the individual market — they all need a champion.

And instead of rising to the occasion, some in Congress are worried about legislative procedures? Indeed, they’re more worried about these procedures than they are in helping struggling families?

I understand campaign anxieties. I don’t understand this.