Statement of Common Cause President Bob Edgar on President’s planned address to Congress

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  • Dale Eisman

“President Obama’s speech before a joint session of Congress Wednesday will set the course of the health care package Congress ultimately passes, and will be an important moment for his entire presidency. We applaud this administration for taking on the issue, as escalating health care costs have been a huge national problem for more than a decade.

Public opinion polls consistently show a majority of Americans support a government program to help citizens pay for their health care. Majorities also support slowing the rise of health care costs and bringing more competition to the market. Arrayed against these reforms are the health care companies themselves, who prefer the current system and generate millions, even billions of dollars in political donations, lobbying and public campaigns to keep it.

It is clear that laws that govern campaign fundraising and spending in this country affect the outcome of landmark reforms like health care. Legislation pending before Congress – the Fair Elections Now Act (FENA) – which would create a voluntary system for candidates to run congressional campaigns on a combination of small donations and limited public funding, would change the dynamics of this debate, giving more power to the millions of uninsured, and less to the corporations who spend big bucks on political contributions and lobbying. This will be true for every major reform debate Congress will have, from climate change to defense spending, where the public interests are aligned against powerful special interests. Simply put, we won’t have national policies in critical areas like health care and climate change that are truly in the public’s interest until we get the special interests out of the business of paying for our political campaigns.

As the president addresses Congress, the health care industry lobbyists and corporate donors who have an interest in scuttling the health care reforms, especially the central feature of a public health insurance option, will be watching. The millions Americans who cannot afford health insurance will also be watching.”