Senator Edward Kennedy’s death was not unexpected – but its timing was unsettling, as progressives anxiously observe the health care debate in Washington. Yesterday, Senator Robert Byrd proposed re-naming
the health care reform bill in his honor. It’s a fitting tribute, but also the kind of symbolic gesture that politicians love to make. If the public option gets dropped from the final legislation, naming it after a Senator who called universal health care “the passion of my life” would be a cruel hoax
on his legacy. A better approach is to name the “public option” after Kennedy – giving his name a permanent mark the way Pell Grants did for the late Senator Claiborne Pell. No one will remember the name of the bill, but they will remember the name of the program. At a time when 79% of Americans
(and 61% of Republican voters) support “a new federal health insurance plan that individuals could purchase if they can't afford private plans offered to them,” there is no excuse for Senators Max Baucus, Kent Conrad and others to stand in the way. Calling it the Ted Kennedy Health Plan
might shame them into doing it.