About 120 residents gathered at Fountain Square at noon on Jan. 26 to call on legislators to immediately pass a strong health-care reform bill, and not to give up or scale back, as some Democrats have suggest- ed, in the wake of the Massachusetts election. The rally was called by MoveOn.org and other local residents.

Larry Goldberg, regional coordinator for MoveOn, told the crowd that MoveOn had supported providing for a public option in the health-care reform legislation, and it was now supporting adopting a health-care reform bill through the reconciliation procedure. “Move forward with this bill, and if it requires a reconciliation vote, have a reconciliation vote,” he said.

Budget reconciliation is a procedure agreed to by Congress to facilitate passing priority legislation that affects federal spending and revenue. It is not subject to a filibuster, and it thus requires a majority of senators (51 votes) for passage, rather than the supermajority 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster. In general, only policies affecting the budget may be passed under the reconciliation procedure.

A representative of Health Care for America Now said welfare reform in 1996 and the creation of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program in 1997 were passed using the reconciliation procedure. He added that Congress approved the use of reconciliation for health-care reform in the current year’s budget resolution, but it requires that the reconciliation bill reduce the deficit by at least $1 billion.

Mr. Goldberg said MoveOn has 5 million members nationwide, and that similar rallies were being held throughout the country on Jan. 26.

A representative for Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky attended the rally, as did four Democratic candidates for state representative of the 18th District: Robyn Gabel, Eamon Kelly, Patrick Keenan-Devlin and Jeff Smith.

During the rally, demonstrators held posters on the plaza saying, “77% Love the Public Option,” “Health Care, We Can’t Wait,” “Insurance Profits Are Bad For My Health,” “Democrats Show Some Backbone.” Some passing cars and buses honked in support.