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Andy Stern
Labor leader

Andy Stern

Andy Stern is president of the two-million member Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the fastest-growing union in North America.

Game time in the Senate

Real leadership requires balancing of multiple priorities, and it's a hard truth that when interests don't align, not all priorities can prevail. It will surprise no one that after trying to pass health-insurance reform for the better part of a century, the final mile includes some compromises. At the same time, no one will confuse political gamesmanship, whose only purpose is to thwart the will of the majority, with leadership.

Our Senate leaders have to ask themselves a question right now: Will individual senators allow parochial interests or a pet cause get in the way of comprehensive health-insurance reform? The answer is simple: If Democrats allow themselves to be held hostage to appease a few intransigent senators, they risk losing the support of voters and undermining their ability to govern.

Last weekend, we witnessed last-ditch efforts to stall or kill health insurance reform in the House. We watched male legislators shout down their female colleagues. We watched representatives of states with skyrocketing premiums and rates of uninsured Americans argue for more delay. And we watched an 11th-hour maneuver to inject the hot-button issue of abortion into the debate to either kill reform or severely restrict women's reproductive rights.

These are the choices our legislators face, and now it's the Senate's chance to lead.

Just as when unions negotiate their contracts, there comes a time when members must make a choice and vote. It's game time, our Senators can no longer hide, threaten, or negotiate their own individual bill. No one gets a free pass for denying the American public a fair up-or-down vote on this bill. The American people have long memories, and come next November, no one will forget who attempted to derail reform. Our elected leaders will be held accountable for the choices that they make.

We stand at this historic moment because of decades of hard work. Unfortunately for the millions in this country suffering under an insurance system that costs too much and covers too few, politics and grandstanding are at risk of taking over. The American people elected a team of 60 Senators to push for bold solutions. They will be judged for what they deliver. If at the end of the day Americans can't afford health care or if the standard of care declines, every single Democratic Senator will pay the price.

By Andy Stern

 |  November 10, 2009; 10:13 AM ET
Category:  Political leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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The Stupak Amendment was a brilliant strategic maneuver by reform opponents, & will surely kill any reform effort, leaving America with the health care system it deserves. Abortion is the ONLY issue of any consequence facing the nation, as far as this generation of politicians is concerned. If a community wanted to widen their road from two to four lanes, someone would object to using tax dollars because four lanes might make it easier for a woman to get to an abortion clinic.

Posted by: arzt | November 11, 2009 3:16 PM
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This bill is an idiot test.

If you vote for it, you fail the test. And that's not a good thing.

Posted by: Ombudsman1 | November 10, 2009 6:50 PM
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It seems to me that the Democrats are bungling this whole healthcare reform issue.

Gee, did I miss something or aren't they supposed to be in the majority.

They let fools like that Stupak guy from Michigan allow themselves to be railroaded into preventing a woman from receiving healthcare in the event she should, unfortunately, need an abortion.

It seems that the religious right have done a good job of hijacking this healthcare reform bill and are doing more damage now than the uber right wing so called religious values voters have done in 26 years.

If this healthcare bill fails because of ineffective leadership on the part of both the White House and the Democrats in Congress, I will never vote for a Democrat again in my lifetime. I won't vote for a republican either of course because I will be well and truly finished with politics in this country.

Posted by: JaneDoe4 | November 10, 2009 4:13 PM
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We are SO close to getting some real change done here. I am ardently pro-choice, but I hope my fellow pro-choicers don't draw a line in the sand here that takes this country back to square one on such a desperately needed cause.

PLEASE don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good here. If you do you are playing right into the hands of the conservative whackos and the insurance industry. They both would relish our staying with the status quo, but Americans of all walks of life (yes, including women) will suffer.

This struggle is complicated enough without making it into a battleground on abortion as well. Please, I beg my progressive friends. Let's take things in doable steps.

Posted by: B2O2 | November 10, 2009 2:18 PM
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Not a single woman in this lineup discussing abortion. What's wrong with this picture? I'm sick and tired of having men 1) decide to give up my rights, and 2) make themselves feel better afterward by discussing it.

Posted by: aquinas2 | November 10, 2009 1:34 PM
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