On Thanksgiving, after we had finished our dinner, some of us sat around the table and talked about the issues of the day. Inevitably, the talk turned to health care reform. We discussed what to do about people who are uninsured through no fault of their own and those who are uninsured by conscious choice, how much we value personal choice and control in making our health care decisions and how much of that choice and control we feel comfortable giving up, and other core issues that lie at the center of the health care debate. Although we approached the issues from different personal circumstances and different points on the political spectrum, our discussion was respectful and, I think, enlightening. I suspect that many other families had similar discussions over their Thanksgiving dinners.
Now the Senate is poised to begin debate on the massive health care reform bill. As the debate begins, I hope that our Senators have actually read, themselves, the thousands of pages of the bill, had it read and carefully considered by a trusted aide or two, and asked pointed questions about provisions that are not immediately easy to understand and received truthful answers. I hope that, over the Thanksgiving holiday break, the Senators have talked to at least some of their constituents about the core issues and explained how those issues actually will be affected if the legislation is enacted in its current form. I hope that, when the debate begins, the canned and stale “talking points” get discarded and there is an actual vigorous but respectful debate about the core issues in which Senators listen to their colleagues with an open mind. Finally, I hope that Senators will cast their votes not as members of a Democratic or Republican caucus, but rather in faithful performance of their constitutional role — as representatives of their states, supposedly possessed of a more secure, long-term perspective about what is good for the nation as a whole.
As we talked about health care over the dinner table on Thanskgiving, I sensed a real undercurrent of concern about how any legislation would affect us, personally. We all have different health histories and job histories and family needs. Our Senators needs to consider that their actions will have enormous real-world consequences for average Americans like us. The Senate vote should not be about politics, but about doing the right thing for our nation and its people.