Just yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) dealt a serious setback to President Obama's desired timeline for health care reform, saying the full Senate would not vote on a health care bill until Congress returns from its August recess. Negotiations remained stalled in the House as well. The House is scheduled to break for recess on Aug. 1 while the Senate is scheduled to break on Aug. 8.
Today, the liberal advocacy group MoveOn.org and the liberal news Web site FireDogLake are handing petitions to Congress asking them to stay.
On July 22, FireDogLake launched a petition for the House to stay in session until it passes health care reform. Today they deliver it to Congress with at least 35,000 signatures.
"What would you choose - going on vacation or passing health care reform?" read an e-mail announcing the petition. "The choice is fairly obvious: the House should keep working until they pass a health reform bill - health care is more important than vacation."
FireDogLake promises to "hound any Member who thinks it's a good idea to delay."
The online petition page cites data suggesting that in three weeks -- the length of Congress' August recess -- 43,250 people will lose their health insurance coverage, 53,507 people will file for bankruptcy because they can't pay their medical bills, and 1,265 people will die because they lack coverage.
MoveOn.org is taking the same tactic -- highlighting how much damage can be done in three weeks -- to promote its own petition to the House and the Senate.
"The Senate just announced they'll take a month-long vacation before voting on health care reform. What?!?," the e-mail sent to supporters today reads. "Republicans think that by demanding delays, they can kill reform—and too many conservative Democrats are playing into their hands. But Americans can't afford to wait: while the Senate is on vacation, over 400,000 people will lose their health coverage."
Some members of Congress appear to agree.
House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) is currently negotiating over health care reform proposals with moderate Democrats in his committee -- the only remaining House committee that is left to approve the reforms. Waxman reportedly told The Associated Press today that the negotiations cannot go on "interminably" because they would "empower" Republicans interested in stopping the reform efforts. He said if an agreement with moderate Democrats cannot be reached, the bill will bypass his committee and go straight to the House floor, the AP reported.
FireDogLake also highlights comments made on the House floor by Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), who says Congress cannot afford to wait to pass the bill.
"If we go home for recess without passing this bill, we will give special interests and their lobbyists five weeks to dump millions of dollars into ad campaigns that spread misinformation and fear and confusion," she said. "We will give them five weeks to do everything they can to kill the best chance we have had in a lifetime to move forward on significant health care reform."
While the liberal groups are emphasizing the urgent need for reform by highlighting how much can happen in three weeks, it would, in fact, take three to four years to enact most of the significant reforms in the legislation.