Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Roland Burris: an unlikely hero?

Roland Burris, a Democratic Senator from Illinois, is not someone I would suggest having as a political hero. Having received his Senate seat under suspicious circumstances -- from an appointment by Rod Blagojevich, the Illinois governor who tried to sell the seat to the highest bidder -- Burris isn't seen as the most ethical Senator within the upper house of Congress.

Recently, however, Burris did something that no other Democratic Senator has done, or has had the guts to do: he openly voiced that he will not support any health care reform bill that doesn't include a robust public option.

"I would not support a bill that does not have a public option," said Burris, adding that his "position will not change" on the matter.

Some may see Burris's comments as foolish or stubborn. But it's just as stubborn, if not more so, to actively say you won't support any bill WITH a public option, as some conservative Democrats and Republicans have said they will vote. Such stubbornness, in fact, goes against the will of the people, who overwhelmingly want a public option in the final bill.

Fifty seven percent of Americans, in fact, support a public option for health care reform, according to a new ABC News/Washington Post pol. What's more, a majority of Americans also want Democrats to pass reform without bipartisan support from Republicans if the end result would include a public option.

Sensing this, you'd think more Senators than Roland Burris would come out this strong in support of a public insurance option for Americans. It's troubling that more Senators aren't demanding this plan be a part of the final bill. Sure, many are fighting for it to be there, but there hasn't been a demand for it, the way Republicans are demanding it not be there at all.

For that, the Democrats seem to be wavering on the issue a little -- even Barack Obama has said that, while he wants a public option as part of the final bill, he would support a bill without it, too. The president shouldn't waver like this: he should be more forthcoming, more "sure" about what he wants in the bill.

Roland Burris is no hero, that much is for sure. But his actions this week take on heroic qualities.

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