Lieberman Gets Another Visit from the Grassroots for Single-Payer

By Kevin Gosztola for OpEdNews

The grassroots organization, Mobilization for Healthcare for All, returned to Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (I-CT) D.C. Office on Tuesday morning and confronted Lieberman for taking money from insurance companies and opposing healthcare as a human right.

Sam Pullen, who engaged in a sit-in at a Blue Cross office in Los Angeles on Oct. 15th, was arrested, and then pledged to stay in jail in L.A. until Blue Cross stopped denying care to those that need it most, participated in the action along with others from the Washington, D.C. area.

The action involved a visual act of theater where someone playing Sen. Lieberman appeared enlightened as music was playing and agreed to give the money he had accepted from insurance companies like Aetna back to the companies so they could use it to cover consumers.

Pullen explained this was designed to “provide an image of what it would look like for a senator to give back the money that they’ve received from insurance companies and agree that they’re going to fight for healthcare to be a basic right for all.”

Those who entered Lieberman’s office hoped to catch Lieberman before he was able to sneak out the back exit like he did last time they came to confront him. And, they were prepared to risk arrest and go to jail.

Pullen was prepared to be arrested and stay in jail so he could continue to bring attention to the need for real healthcare reform.

“This really is a critical time, things are moving forward, and there’s probably a little bit over a month to influence the political process with our grassroots,” said Pullen. He added, “There’s a long tradition—which I’m proud to be part of—of citizens who speak their conscience even if that means landing themselves in jail.”

To those skeptical and cynical toward Pullen’s pledge to remain in jail, he said what he is doing is part of “inspiring the American people to speak out” and demand that healthcare be a right for all Americans.

This action from the Mobilization for Healthcare for All came less than a week after a similar act of civil disobedience occurred in Lieberman’s D.C. Office on Thursday, November 5th. It occurred simultaneously with an action at Lieberman’s office in Connecticut.

And, it took place as the national coordinator of Mobilization for Healthcare for All, Kai Newkirk, and one other single-payer advocate from Connecticut, who were both arrested last week for taking direct action against Lieberman, remain in jail in D.C.

One might wonder why the single-payer movement is still mobilizing and making sacrifices for healthcare reform after so many stunning defeats last week.

Between Thursday and Saturday, the movement witnessed Pelosi’s refusal to allow any amendments on single-payer to come to the floor, Obama’s message to Congress to not allow a vote on single-payer so close to a vote on his health insurance bill, Kucinich’s and Conyers’ decision to not support a vote on single-payer in the House, and a vote on an anti-choice amendment brought to the floor by conservative Democrats and Republicans after Pelosi declared no amendments to the bill would be allowed to come up for a vote.

But, assistant national coordinator of Healthcare-Now!, Katie Robbins, suggested people look past recent failures to build support in Congress and remember how far the single-payer movement has come this year.

“We’ve come from being completely blocked out of the conversation in many ways to leveraging our way in to having congressional hearings and having single-payer advocates,” said Robbins. “I don’t think Democratic leadership expected single-payer legislation to be alive at this point.”

Robbins and other advocates now turn their attention to the Senate as the health insurance enrichment bill moves onward.

As Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) contends that the House bill with a weak public option is “dead on arrival,” as Senate Democrats and Obama continue to suggest this for-profit healthcare system can be made to work for the American people, single-payer advocates now turn their attention to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who they hope will bring his single-payer amendment (S.703) to the Senate floor.

“As a movement, it’s important for us to continue to educate people that this is not enough, it’s not sufficient, it’s not addressing the problem that we have, it’s not going to be universal or financially sustainable,” said Dr. Margaret Flowers, who is with Physicians for a National Health Program. “And, at this point, it’s important to turn our attention to the Senate. We still have an opportunity at the very least to try and get the Sanders single-payer amendment that would allow states to pass single-payer legislation.”

Author’s Bio: Kevin Gosztola is a trusted author who publishes his writing regularly to OpEdNews and Open Salon and he is a 2009 Young People For Fellow. He is a documentary filmmaker currently completing a Film/Video degree at Columbia College in Chicago. Currently, he is working on a documentary project on Renaissance 2010 and Chicago Public Schools. On Columbia College’s campus, he helps organize events and programming with a humanities/social sciences group known as Critical Encounters. He is currently working with the group to plan a media summit for Chicago in April 2010 and is currently seeking speakers who are willing to participate in talking to artists and media makers about how they can use participatory or social media to create art & media that promotes conversation and action on political, social, and cultural issues.


  1. john on November 11, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    Id like to know what happened to Sam Pullen,was he arrested again? thanks,

  2. April Medlin on November 19, 2009 at 11:10 pm

    The fines they are contemplating in the Senate will be taken from our income tax returns if we can’t pay them. They don’t understand we don’t have any money. As long as the corporations are running the show, WE ARE SCREWED!

  3. Sharon Johnson on November 24, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    They are all corrupt bastards!!

  4. Sharon Johnson on November 24, 2009 at 8:13 pm

    Sorry – I mean those in congress who are foisting this great windfall for the insurance companies paid for by you and me. Time to move from this country

  5. Richard Heckler on November 28, 2009 at 7:42 am

    1. Consumers take control of your own lives and money. Remember it is the medically insured that make up at least 50% of bankruptcies filed today due to health care that is not covered adequately. These insured only thought they were covered only now are losing the bulk of their personal assets. REMEMBER it is our insurance system of today that WILL CANCEL when the going gets tough.

    2. Another perfect example of why National Health Insurance is the only way to go.

    3. There are many reasons why consumers deserve 24/7 care no matter what. The INFLATED expense of treating cancer is but one = too much profit in the business of health care.

    4. Pharmaceuticals operate with huge huge profit margins = consumers getting screwed.

    5. The nations consumers could have excellent National Health insurance for all if one would remove:

    *elected officials as shareholders
    *special interest campaign funding
    *the insurance industry recklessly spending health care dollars to bribe votes

    6. Why should consumers seeking health care be expected to support tons of shareholders and campaign contributions while making a health care visit?

    7. Paying out of pocket and setting up health care savings accounts eliminates high dollar reckless spending on:

    • the bureaucracy of over 1,500 insurance providers aka profiteers
    • obscene profits
    • high corporate salaries
    • advertising budgets
    * over charges = fraud and theft • sales commissions
    • Shareholders CERTAINLY increase the cost of insurance
    • Special interest campaign dollars
    * Golden parachutes
    * Politicians as shareholders

    8. National Health Insurance WILL NOT walk away flipping a consumer the bird.