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Healthcare dustup

In the Piedmont Triad we find ourselves in the midst of crosscurrents of ideology where healthcare reform is concerned. On one hand, there is a strong progressive impulse towards expanding the public safety net. On the other, a reflex towards minimizing costs for businesses and reducing the burden on the taxpayer. Sen. Kay Hagan, the Democrat from Greensboro, has been nudged into progressive camp. Sen. Richard Burr, the Republican from Winston-Salem, has been a passionate advocate for small businesses. Last month, Adam Linker published a post on the Progressive Pulse blog urging Hagan to “take some leadership” on healthcare reform, and support the public insurance policy option. “Otherwise,” he said, “she will take a leap for the middle ground and find that there is nothing there.” Hagan obviously heeded the call. On July 2, she joined her Democratic colleagues on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee in support of the public option, calling it “a backstop option for people without access to affordable coverage.” Even with all the Democrats on board with the public option now on the Senate health committee, the bill is making painfully slow progress. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, the Democrat from Maryland, said on July 9 that the committee has yet to deliberate and vote on upwards of 200 amendments proposed by members. Burr, along with Republican colleagues Mike Enzi of Wyoming and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, has been among the right’s most valiant warriors in trying to defang the Affordable Health Choices Act. “This is a great debate to have,” he said on July 9. “I think this is why it’s beneficial not to rush these. We’re now in the twelfth or thirteenth day — I’ve lost track. But I think it’s becoming obvious that there are people who want to kill private insurance, and they want government to take it over.” Hagan, in comparison, was virtually absent during the mark-up session, voting by proxy with her Democratic colleagues. (The mark-up sessions are can be viewed online, by the way, at help.senate.gov; this counts as a significant step forward for democratic transparency.) Meanwhile, a noisier debate is playing out back home, where the supporters and opponents of the public option are taking their message to the streets and rallying their troops on the internet. Supporters of the public option kept the

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