By Mark Dudzic of the Labor Campaign for Single-Payer –
When the 111th Congress adjourns this year, the fight to win healthcare as a right for all in America will still lie before us. The Labor Campaign for Single Payer has vowed to help turn this year’s passage of PPACA into the opening shot in a long-term campaign to win expanded and improved Medicare for all.
The outcome of the November 2 election will determine just how difficult this job will be. If the Republicans take control of the House, Paul Ryan (R., WI) will likely become the Chair of the Budget Committee. He has a plan to destroy Medicare and replace it with a system of vouchers to purchase private insurance.
In addition, sometime after the election, Congress will consider the recommendations of the Deficit Commission appointed by President Obama. This Commission will almost certainly recommend cuts in Social Security and Medicare, including a possible raise in the eligibility age for Social Security to 68 or higher. This would undermine the very social safety net that we fight to expand. The 81-member Congressional Progressive Caucus has been the only consistent voice in Congress opposing all concessions. Any loss in caucus membership will surely weaken the resolve of Congress to hold the line on this crucial issue.
Many current and potential supporters of HR 676 (the Conyers “Medicare for All” Bill) are also facing tough races. Of the 70 “battleground races” identified by the AFL-CIO, at least 8 involve friends of single-payer:
- In the Arizona 7th Raul Grijalva, co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, co-sponsor of HR 676 and leader of the fight against cuts to Social Security, is facing an orchestrated and well-financed attack.
- In the California 3rd a rare opportunity to defeat an incumbent Republican has emerged. Dr. Amerish (Ami) Bera has pulled even in the polls against 8-term anti-labor incumbent Dan Lungren. Dr. Bera is a likely supporter of expanding Medicare to all in America if he wins election.
- In the Georgia 2nd Sanford Bishop, co-sponsor of HR 676 is in a tough re-election battle.
- In the Hawaii 1st Colleen Hanabusa is also in a tough fight to win the seat vacated by Neil Abercrombie. She has promised to carry on Rep. Abercrombie’s commitment to win healthcare for all.
- In the Iowa 2nd David Loebsack has been put on the endangered list by the AFL-CIO. The two-term Congressman is a co-sponsor of HR 676.
- In the Illinois 17th Phil Hare is another HR 676 co-sponsor under attack. Hare worked for 13 years as a cutter in a clothing factory and is the former president of Local 617 UNITE-HERE.
- In the Kentucky 3rd John Yarmuth, a reliableHR-676 co-sponsor, has been targeted for defeat by the Republican National Committee.
- In the Rhode Island 1st David Cicilline is having a difficult time in his race to fill the seat being vacated by Patrick Kennedy. Cicilline is likely to continue Kennedy’s support for HR 676.
There are many other national and sate races which will have an impact on the future of healthcare reform:
- In California, single-payer activists are working to defeat Meg Whitman. In addition to an overall animosity to labor, she would surely veto any single-payer bill passed by the legislature.
- In Vermont, many are supporting Peter Shumlin an unabashed advocate of single-payer who is the Democratic candidate for governor. Vermont will be considering the implementation of a single-payer reform within the next year.
- And in Massachusetts, non-binding single payer initiatives are on the ballot in 14 legislative districts.
The stakes are high and the prospects are tough but there’s one thing you can count on: the supporters of the Labor Campaign for Single Payer won’t back down. We’ll be doing everything we can do before, during and after this election to ensure that the fight for healthcare justice continues.