Neighbors at odds over health care reform

Brooklynites this week demonstrated just how split they are on the future of health care reform.

At a meeting with Reps. Yvette Clarke and Anthony Weiner held in Park Slope over the weekend, slightly more than half of the those filling M.S. 51’s auditorium on 5th Avenue said that Democrats should scrap the painfully cobbled reform package now lodged in the throat of the U.S. Congress and start over, while the remainder expressed their support for passing the Senate version of the bill through an equally painful and convoluted “reconciliation” process.

“I am actually for the single payer option, although I know it’s not on the table and was never on the table,” Gravesend resident Paul Grebanier told this newspaper. “I would actually prefer no bill to a lousy bill so that people have a chance to truly speak up for what they want. I think if we have a true discussion, then people will see the benefits of what the rest of the civilized world has done.”

Windsor Terrace resident Joan Ruberto complained that Democrats have “pulled apart” and argued for passing the Senate bill now.

“If we don’t do it now, we’re never going to get it done,” Ruberto said. “We’ve been complaining for 25 years. It’s taken that long to get to where we are now.”

Both Clarke and Weiner warned that the Senate version of health care reform would actually penalize states like New York that have already taken steps to extend greater access to health care for their residents.

“There is a lot in the Senate bill that is anti-New York,” Clarke warned.

For his part, Weiner, lamenting that there are now fewer hospitals in his 9th Congressional District then there were last year, dumped much of the blame for the Democrats’ conundrum on the White House.

“I don’t know when we decided to outsource health care reform to [Senators] Olympia Snowe, Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman,” Weiner said.

The former mayoral candidate believes health insurance companies should be subject to anti-trust laws, and said that “Blue Dogs” like Lieberman should be forced to stand up and actually go through with a threatened filibuster on the Senate floor.

Clarke, meanwhile, chided Democratic voters themselves for failing to “show up.”

“The Democratic base is not doing its job,” the twice-elected representative from the 11th Congressional District said. “When I come out of my office and I’m tripping over tea baggers, I’m saying, where is the cavalry?”

Neighbors, however, were quick to challenge Clarke, and called on her to help organize the kinds of bus trips to Washington, D.C. that the representative says is needed.

Without changes, Clarke said that she cannot vote for the Senate bill, and dismissed criticism by some that progressives are guilty of “sacrificing the good for the perfect.”

“We can’t give the half-baked to our constituents either,” Clarke responded.

Many political analysts warn that the loss of the late Senator Ted Kennedy’s seat to a Republican could be the precursor to a GOP resurgence this fall.

“If we pass a horrible bill, we could actually set back health care for 30 years,” Weiner said.