I just talked to Congressman Joseph Crowley (D-East Bronx) about the chaos swirling in Washington around the issue of healthcare reform now that the Democrats have lost their Senate supermajority.
With the loss of the late Sen. Kennedy’s Massachusetts seat to a Republican last Tuesday, Democrats no longer have the 60 votes required to push the legislation through the Senate. Crowley downplayed the impact of the loss and promised to continue fighting to give all Bronx residents access to healthcare, but it was unclear how, exactly, he planned to do it in this changed political landscape.
“Obviously the election was disappointing from a Democrat/ Republican standpoint,” said Crowley, one of three members of Congress representing the Bronx, “but the fact that we lost the seat doesn’t change the fact that 40 million people don’t have health insurance.”
Back in the comparatively hopeful days of August, Crowley launched an interactive healthcare forum on his House Web site, designed to dispel misinformation and engage constituents in thinking about the best way to reform the system. Today, he seemed to just be hoping to get something passed.
“We have to explore other options to make the changes that we were initially setting up to do,” he said.
Crowley suggested that his party might use a parliamentary loophole called budget “reconciliation” to pass parts of the bill.
“We might have to break up the bill a bit, to do it piecemeal,” he explained. “I think we will get something through—it may not be everything we want at first but it will be substantial.
Crowley was careful to emphasize the continuing need for healthcare reform in the Bronx. “There are tens of thousands people in the Bronx that don’t have healthcare coverage today, and we are trying to make it affordable for them; there are people small businesses in the Bronx that can’t afford to buy health insurance,” he said.