A few weeks ago, I visited Washington and dropped in on our New Mexico Congressional delegation. Senator Tom Udall shared his thoughts on The Constitutional Option, a rules change at the beginning of the next Congress enabling the Senate to move forward with 51 votes.

Nobody yet knows what the next Congress will look like. Blue dogs and conservative Dems are likely to have been obliterated by a mixture of Republicans and Donkeys of the deepest cerulean blue. Rovian corporatists may end up struggling with teapartiers over whether being a Republican means carrying water for CEOs or trying to emulate East Germany while marching about in Nazi regalia.

Who knows what the White House will look like now that Rahm Emmanuel, Davie Axelrod and Larry Summers are bidding adieu.

Will the Constitutional Option play a role in the restoration of sanity?

I apologize in advance for the quality of the video and for the time lag between shooting and posting. This is my first ever attempt to edit and post video myself.

Part 1: The Constitutional Option

TFLS: And so my question for you today is, I want you to tell me what the Constitutional Option is and for the folks who will be listening, a lot of them are people who really care about health care reform. So if we had a Constitutional Option, how might that bill look different and how could it be different and how could it be different in the future.

Senator Udall: Sure. The first thing for people to really understand about the Constitutional Option is that people are frustrated with the rules of the Senate and I don’t blame them. The reason they’re frustrated is because when we campaigned and President Obama campaigned, we were gonna do all these great things, make these great changes, move the nation forward, and that’s not happening as quickly as we would want it to happen.

So that’s a critical issue…that we’re not getting the change that people want. And so what the Constitutional Option is about is doing rules reform in the Senate at the beginning of a Congress and the crucial thing is that at the beginning of Congress you can set rules with 51 Senators. You can end the debate and you can adopt new rules. Now is the time for rules reform.

Now the background for this is very important because three vice presidents have already ruled that at the beginning of a Congress, you can change the rules with 51 votes. Also there is a very strong Constitutional principal and that principal is one legislature cannot bind a subsequent legislature. What we’re talking about there…let’s use health care reform as your example…if we had passed health care reform and put a provision in the bill that said the next Congress is going to need seventy-five votes to change this proposal, that would be unconstitutional. And so essentially what’s happened is that we have been bound by a previous Senate.

The last Senate to change the rules in this area was in 1975. Ninety-eight members of the Senate have never voted for rules change because we’ve been bound by that previous action.

That’s where we are. We’ve been trying to get filibuster reform. There’s been a lot of coverage of it. The New Yorker’s done a piece about authored by George Packer. There’s a lot of information out there about how the Senate’s broken and what we need to do to fix it. I’m leading out there on this rules reform and the Constitutional Option

Part 2: The Constitutional Option Would Have Enabled a Public Option

Senator Udall: I believe, Lauren, that every single one of our citizens should have health care. And they should have good, quality health care in their local communities. That’s why, when we brought up the health care bill, there was a big fight over what was called the Public Option. And what the Public Option was all about was setting up enough competition so that we could see which was the best way to move. Do we want a non-profit pursuing health care? Or do we want insurance companies pursuing health care?

That was the big fight we had on the Senate floor. I was obviously for having a public option and moving in that direction. If we were able to refine the rules and reform the rules, I think we would be getting closer to a public option than the bill we passed.

Senator Udall at the Espanola Plaza

I would still say the bill we passed had some important provisions. We bring 30 million new people into the system. Those are the estimates. We take care of pre-existing conditions. People can’t be barred because of pre-existing conditions. As of today, if you’re a young person and you can’t get insurance out of the market up to the age of 26, you can stay on your parents policy. That’s a big thing for people to be able to do. And there are going to be insurance exchanges, more competition and trying to get cost control into the future…all of those kind of things.

But the real issue here is the Senate should be producing the change the American people want. But the Senate’s broken now. So I’m trying to lead out on reform.

TFLS: So how does that look? I guess you can’t really know if you have the votes if you don’t know who’s in the Senate but…

Senator Udall: Well we have an election so a third of the new Senators will be coming in. A couple of things we know. First of all, Harry Reid has said, if he returns (and I think he’s going to return) he thinks there should be rules reform. He’s given two great examples. These are sports examples but he’s said, you know, when they had the spitball, they tolerated it for awhile, but then the ball got so soggy it was dangerous, and they banned the spitball. In basketball, they had the procedure of players being in the four corners of the court and just tossing the ball around and not trying to get a basket and wasting time. Well they created the four corner rule and they banned that kind of activity.

And he said, “That’s abuse.” And when you have abuse…and that’s what we have now…abuse of the rules by Mitch McConnell and his team. So whaqt we’re going to o is make that clear to the American people and move with the Constitutional Option to change the rules so that the majority can govern. But we’re not going to deny the minority the chance to make their points and be heard.

TFLS: Okay! Thank you!

Senator Udall: Is that good? Did I hit it on the head?

TFLS: Yes!

Crossposted from Blogistan Polytechnic Institute.

2 Responses to “Exclusive Video Interview: Senator Tom Udall on The Constitutional Option”

  1. jacksmith says:

    I’M PROUD OF YOU LABOR!. Keep standing up. The lives and health of all the American people and the World are in serious jeopardy.

    Further, unemployment healthcare benefits are critically needed. But they should be provided through the Medicare program at cost, less the 65% government premium subsidy provided now to private for profit health insurance.

    Congress should stop wasting hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money on private for profit health insurance subsidies. Subsidies that cost the taxpayer 10x as much or more than Medicare does. Private for profit health insurance plans cost more. But provide dangerous and poorer quality patient care.

    It’s over. Tell congress to get the healthcare Merchants of death and injury out of the American peoples lives for good. 2010 is about THE PUBLIC OPTION!

    And that CORRUPT! UNDEMOCRATIC! filibuster must GO! NOW!

    Alan Grayson Honors The Dead

    Alan Grayson on Healthcare

    Ron Sparks HealthCareReform

    John Garamendi – The Public Option

    I want to commend all of you for working so hard and being so strong at helping the whitehouse and congress begin to address our U.S. and Global healthcare crisis. You have been AWESOME! my fellow Americans and peoples of the World. America and the World is better and safer for it. My greatest pride is the knowledge that I am one of you. And that you really get it. You really understand the importance of it all.

    There are some potentially very good things in the healthcare legislation. Especially with the reconciliation fix’s. The Democrats, Bernie Sanders and the Whitehouse did a GREAT! job of fighting to produce the best healthcare legislation that they could. They have earned all our strong support. And we should give it to them.

    But it was your relentless pressure and hard work that made the difference. Whatever good comes from this healthcare legislation, America and the peoples of the World will have each of you to thank. You were smart, creative, courageous and relentless. You fought together for the best legislation possible. And when you had to, you fought alone. No matter who stumbled and fell you continued to push and forge ahead. Fighting for the lives and health of the American people and the World. YOU SHOULD BE PROUD OF YOUR-SELVES 🙂

    It may come to pass that future generations will look back on us and say that we were ALL Americas Greatest Generations. And that healthcare reform was our finest hour. You should be proud of our leaders President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Reid and the many other Democratic and independent fighters for the people in congress. They proved them-self worthy of the leadership of a GREAT! PEOPLE.

    But we are not done yet. This was just the beginning of healthcare reform, not the end. WE THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES, ARE NOT! divided on healthcare legislation. The vast majority of you have been consistently crystal clear that this legislation does not go far enough. You want a strong Government-run Public Option CHOICE!! available to everyone on day one. And you want it NOW!


    WE THE PEOPLE have been crystal clear that we want an end to dependence on for-profit healthcare and the for-profit proxies called private for non-profit healthcare. The American people want the CHOICE! of a strong Government-run Public Option to replace their need or dependence on healthcare providers whose primary motivation is profit. Rather than providing the highest quality, easiest accessible and most affordable medically necessary healthcare possible. This is what the rest of the developed World has. And the American people want it too. They want healthcare ASSURANCE! Not, for-profit health insurance. And they want it NOW!

    Now is the time to continue the push for a strong Government-run Public Option CHOICE! available to everyone that wants it on day one. Rationally it’s clear what we have to do to get this done. SUPPORT THE DEMOCRATS that supported you with a Public Option choice, and REMOVE as many republicans as you can. Not one republican in congress was willing to step across the isle to support a strong Government-run Public Option CHOICE!! available to everyone on day one. NOT ONE! Let no candidate prevail this November that does not support a Strong Government-run Public Option.

    47,000 AMERICANS die each year from lack of healthcare. 120,000 die from treatable illness that don’t die in other developed countries. Hundreds of thousands of you are dieing from medical accidents in a rush to profit. And Millions of you are injured. Millions more are driven into bankruptcy. All for the privilege of paying two to three times as much as any other people in the developed world for healthcare. HOGWASH!

    Additionally, tens of thousands of you and your children were killed and millions sickened and injured from a terror attack with H1N1 (swine flu). Released on the American people and the World by the for-profit healthcare industry. All in an attempt to panic and frighten you into accepting the oxymoronic criminal enterprise of private for-profit healthcare (The most costly, deadly, dangerous, and disgraceful product sold in America). H1N1 is still sickening people and killing them. Especially children, the young and the middle aged. And there will be a third wave. These are the terrorist you need to worry about the most. Even the so-called international terrorist would not do something so INSANE! But greed driven medical profiteers would and did.

    As far as republicans in GOVERNMENT are concerned – YOU! my fellow Americans – CAN JUST DROP DEAD! Including their own family members.

    So my fellow Human Beings. Rest-up, Take good care of the basics (Balanced nutrition, hydration, exercise, rest and POSITIVE emotional supports). Then wade back into the FIGHT! for a strong Government-run Public Option CHOICE! available to everyone on day one. Drug re-importation, Abolishment or strong restrictions on patents for biologic and prescription drugs. And government controlled and negotiated drug and medical cost. You must take back control of your healthcare system from the Medical Industrial Complex. You MUST do it NOW! This is a matter of National and Global security. There can be NO MORE EXCUSES.

    God Bless You My Fellow Human Beings. I’m glad to know of you. And proud to be one of you.

    See you on the battle field.


    jacksmith – WorkingClass 🙂

  2. Health CareHealthy says:

    You essentially make seriously articles I would say. This is the first time I visited your webpage and so far I?m impressed with the research you made to make this post amazing. Great Job!

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