Sanders Says Single-Payer Day Will Come as He Withdraws Amendment

By Donna Smith –

Sickening. Saddening. Maddening. And the stuff of future determination in the political struggle for healthcare for all in the United States.

On the floor of the U.S. Senate today, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont rose to offer his single-payer, Medicare for All amendment No. 2837 and to begin debate. Then, one of the two Republican doctors in Senate, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, demanded a full reading of the 700-page amendment.

From the Senate gallery, I watched as Sen. Max Baucus told Sanders the only way to halt the Republican delay tactic would be to withdraw the amendment. Sanders stated emphatically to Baucus, “I will offer this amendment.” But both men left the chamber as the amendment reading went on.

The Republicans seemed to be pleased with the procedural maneuver. Periodically one of the Democratic leadership would walk over to Coburn and chat. He’d smile and lean on his stack of documents – everything being very well staged for the C-SPAN cameras.

I thought how cold and callous it all looked from the gallery – healthcare is not a laughing matter for millions of us. This crisis has killed thousands of our fellow citizens and bankrupted millions more. I fail to find any of that remotely funny or something over which any Senator ought to feel pride as he or she blocks progress towards a better healthcare system.

The words of the amendment were clear and clean. And though not many were there to actually listen, I couldn’t help but hear the details of the amendment and wish people could grasp the simple beauty of knowing each of us, all of us would have the care we need when we needed it at a lower cost. Instead, we’re going to have more of the mess we have now – more insurance company influence over our lives and our bodies, and in many cases at a higher cost.

Single-payer, amendment number 2837 sounded pretty good to me. I was more than willing to wait out the Republican mischief and the Democrats’ worry about not passing something – anything – before Christmas. I was more than willing to listen to every word.

After two hours of reading page after page of the amendment, Sanders stepped back up to his desk and withdrew the amendment. The reading stopped. And the fight for single-payer, Medicare for all died for this Congressional cycle.

Senator Sanders stood proudly and defiantly at the microphone and delivered the floor speech on behalf of single-payer. By then it was all over except for getting his intelligent remarks and his passion on the record. Those who care about where we need to go with this nation’s healthcare system should listen to Senator Sanders’ floor speech from today, December 16, 2009.

The fight will go on. As surely as the deaths attributable to a lack of access to healthcare in the United States will continue to mount and as surely as the number of bankruptcies directly related to medical crisis will also continue to rise, so too will the cry for real healthcare justice. This Congress and this President are not going to get to the place we needed them to go. They are not extending healthcare as a basic human right to all of us.

It makes me wish I had purchased a little health insurance stock along the way. Because as soon as Joe Lieberman made sure that he cleared out any chance of any public insurance expansion at all from this bill, the for-profit health insurance companies saw their stocks begin to rise again.

So, how do we get through this cycle? Will there be a conference committee effort to restore a state based single-payer amendment to health reform legislation? Or will we just watch as Congress passes some messy piece of something that isn’t likely to do very much at all to mitigate the healthcare crisis in this nation just to claim they did something?

And what of the single-payer advocates and movement? Well, in the words of the brave nurses who never took “no” for an answer on other healthcare issues from the “Governator” or anyone else, “We’ll be back.” Healthcare is a human right now and it will be when we win this struggle. It’s just going to take more time and, unfortunately, more suffering to get where we need to go.

Meanwhile, many of us wait anxiously for reports out of Pennsylvania where they were having a state Senate hearing today on their state single-payer bill. We have miles to go before we sleep.


  1. Sara Grimes on December 17, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    I am sick to hear about the removal of the public option. I was at a Christmas parade last Saturday getting petitions signed for a Florida Congressman who wants to run as a state senator. I am running into voters who voted for change, are unemployed and uninsured (like me), and who are disgusted with the whole legislation process. These people need help. Polls show a strong support for, at the very least, a strong robust public option choice for all and yet we are not even getting this out of the proposed legislation. We now need to win one state by one state over to single-payer to get the change that will save so many lives.

  2. Pamela Allee on December 18, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    We will create the next American Revolution – us, the real people, not those parasites in Congress. Don’t be so discouraged! Think about these: ants, what it takes to make one spoonful of honey, and the affect of mosquitos on caribou in the arctic. If we do not sit back, if we proceed through our fear, we can do this – in fact, we must. Begin by considering what your taxes, in aggregate, do – and what they should be doing. Then, don’t allow Congress to mis-allocate your tax moneys – redirect your taxes first ( Put your “elected representatives” on notice that they either become public servants – or get fired. Join your local Real Wealth group. Not only can we – we MUST.

  3. Tom Carey on December 18, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    Yes, it will take more years of suffering at the hands of WALL STREET CONTROLLED HEALTH CARE before American finally gets it! More years of rising rates of Americans without insurance and being forced to use emergency rooms and charging it to those who have insurance. More years of watching premiums increases so Wall Street executives can ride in private jets and make millions in salaries and bonuses.

    It never ceases to amaze me. The same people who brought down our financial institutions bringing this country into a mini-depression are left to control the lion’s share of all health insurance policies! The bottom line in this; public safety and health should never be controlled by corporate America. And yet, the Republicans go OUT OF THEIR WAY to protect them.

    Yes, it will be many more years of human suffering in the so-called greatest country in the world before we will do the sensible and, I dare say this word, MORAL deed!

  4. Perry on December 18, 2009 at 4:14 pm

    The greed of corporate America is sickening. I hope this regime of capitalism is overthrown soon!

  5. Mary Ellen Jacobs on December 18, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    The loss of human life and the damage to people’s lives as their symptoms worsen all done at the hands of insurer greed and government corruption has always been PARAMOUNT in establishing a Single Payer Medicare For All Healthcare System. Our goal right now is to value and save human life in the U.S. wherever it is, as insurer greed and profit spiral more out of control.

    Each Single Payer Advocate has more power right now – more than ever. We can be reporters. We must report on every insurer abuse. As one claim denial takes place anywhere in the U.S., we must report it. As a claimant is wrongfully victimized by insurer abuses including their harassment investigations, we must report it. As each insurer investigator profits off of the new healthcare bill by gaining more government work, we must report it. We must report on everything we hear and see.

    Each Single Payer Advocate must develop a database and blog for each state correctly counting the number of insurance claims denied in that state and all pertinent data that goes with it. We must be the go to people for the uninsured and for the denial of claims. We must show up our state’s Dept, of Insurance and question each State’s Attorney General on what they are doing. Single Payer Advocates must run for office on a local, state and federal level. We must become Regulators. We must get into the Executive Branch of state and federal government. We must become lawyers and judges.

    We must never back off when political adversity is staring us in this face. We don’t quit, not now, not ever – until Single Payer is established. After all, Civil and Human Rights are ours – there is no “theirs.”

  6. Doug Simple on December 18, 2009 at 8:12 pm

    The sheep are pleased, but not quite sure why…

  7. beverly on December 18, 2009 at 8:58 pm

    Bernie Sanders is as full of hot air as 99% of Congress. I heard him during Thanksgiving on one of the Sunday polticial disinformation fests, er, political talk shows and he said the best system would be Medicare for All but that’s not going to happen. The he proceeded to babble in support of the half-assed, ineffective public option mess. Sanders talks a good game but has no follow through. If he were so gung ho on single payer, he wouldn’t have withdrawn the amendment. At this serious juncture – with Congress and Obama ready to hand over the rest of the Treasury to insurance and drug companies – Sanders and other single payer advocates in DC need to be ready for the fight of their lives and resist the bullies in their party. If Sanders votes yea for Obama’s healtcare deform bill, voters should not reward him with another term in office – just as we should not reward ANY Congressperson who votes for this awful bill. It’s past time we punished bad behavior in Congress (and the White House) by not rewarding these people with another 6-figure salary (along with all the other perks) term in office.

  8. Rosina on December 18, 2009 at 11:20 pm

    What can we do now?? We cannot ask these people to listen to reason.
    When will we take to the streets and make enough noise?? The only progressive changes that have been won were won through building mass movements, i.e. the labor movement; women’s right to vote; civil rights; the anti-war movement to name those in the 20th century.

    The left is so fragmented because of petty differences. It’s time to grow up and come to a consensus. If we do not unite and fight. we lose and they win.

  9. Doug Gerash on December 19, 2009 at 3:26 am

    Proof that we live in a true plutocracy and the Democratic Party is at its most corrupt, cowardly and craven since 1968.

  10. Giovanna Lepore on December 19, 2009 at 11:17 am

    I have notified both my senators that I do not intend to cooperate with any unjust health “care” reform laws and that I will continue to agitate for such resistance until we have a publicly funded health insurance for all. For some of us it isn’t even a matter of choosing to buy health “care” over groceries–we are already struggling to pay for groceries so there is nothing left for health “care”! But at bottom it is a matter of duty to one another if not a human right to take care of each other. Let us send these criminals a strong united message: we will NOT cooperate with your unjust laws! If we must die for lack of health care let us do it with dignity Then!

  11. Hugh Sanborn on December 19, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    Single payer is the only sensible cost saving, full coverage of all approach that will provide major change.