Progressives not pleased with Dem leaders’ silence on Medicare for All
National Nurses United

WASHINGTON—Progressive groups and individuals, whose energy, candidates, enthusiasm and votes swept congressional Democrats back into control of the U.S. House next year, are increasingly upset with top party leaders’ silence – at best — on one key progressive issue, Medicare for All.

And that makes a planned campaign by the 77-member Medicare for All caucus, to force House hearings and votes, even more important.

Opinion polls show progressives in particular and a majority of voters overall support Medicare for All. The leaders – Reps. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and Sens. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., don’t, yet. Pelosi has never backed it in her home state, California.

Medicare for All, also known as single-payer government-run health care, would virtually abolish the private insurance companies, their high co-pays, huge deductibles and denial of payment for care.

Instead, the federal government would gather revenue earmarked for medical care – just as payroll tax deductions now pay for Medicare – and use it to pay doctors, hospitals, nurses, clinics and other providers.

Medicare for All has been a key cause for years of National Nurses United, which also pushed it through the California State Senate twice. Democratic Lieut. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s early and enthusiastic endorsement of Medicare for All led California-based NNU to back him a year before the 2018 mid-term election – which saw him elected governor of the Golden State.

Successful Democratic congressional candidates from coast to coast, including Reps.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York City and Rashida Tlaib of Detroit campaigned for it, too. And the AFL-CIO endorsed Medicare for All at its last convention, in St. Louis.

It’s also been a top cause of Sen. Bernie Sanders, Ind-Vt., who now has 16 Democratic cosponsors for the legislation, including several presidential hopefuls. Other backers include its longtime House sponsor, former Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., retiring Rep. Keith Ellison, DFL-Minn., and Rep. Pramilla Jayapal, D-Wash., who heads the Medicare for All caucus.

“When we have that majority, we need to make sure that we put it to use,” Jayapal says. That means hearings, votes and forcing the GOP – including President Donald Trump – to react by killing a popular bill.

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee reported “26 out of 60 incoming Democrats from races that have been called so far supported” Medicare for All. “And those Democrats intend to bring their rhetoric from the campaign trail to Congress,” it adds.

Even more notable: 71 percent of the 142 Democratic hopefuls on various lists of PCCC, the Democratic National Committee, the Red-to-Blue district list and even the corporate New Democrats’ list “supported Medicare for All, a Medicare option for all or expanding Social Security,” PCCC said.

Tlaib, who is Conyers’s successor, told PCCC she’s “very much” committed to pushing Medicare-for-all. “For many members, it’s the priority issue.”

But not for Pelosi, Hoyer, Schumer and Durbin. They talk about improving the Affordable Care Act, protecting people with pre-existing conditions against GOP congressional and legal assaults, and lowering the cost of prescription drugs. Pelosi actually said Trump wants to cut drug costs, too.

A typical comment came from Hoyer. He told CNN voters “wanted to make sure their health care protection was in place and, if they have a pre-existing condition, they would be able to get insurance. They wanted to make sure their prescription drug prices did not go so high they couldn’t afford something that gives them health and or life” and that “Social Security and Medicare were assured” against GOP attempts to cut both.

And that stance has pissed people off.

“Our @USProgressives agenda is a new kind of centrism, based on policy priorities that serve the center of our country. Most voters support Medicare for All. And even if we didn’t win in Texas, Florida and Georgia, these are the ideas that got us closer than ever before,” Jayapal retorted in a tweet.

Rank and file progressive voters are even more upset, especially after Credo reported Pelosi floated the idea of no tax hikes of any kind on the bottom 80 percent of taxpayers – which would bar a payroll tax increase to pay for Medicare for All. One tweeter, Natto, supported Pelosi and a tax hike on the top 20 percent. The rest jumped on her.

“Supporters of this ‘idea’” – the tax ban – “are not necessarily supporters of the Medicare4All, on the contrary,” Petar Simic tweeted.

“Very stupid idea, unless the proponents are deliberately torpedoing the Universal HC / Medicare4All (which is possible as the centrists are actually opposing the Medicare4All as it doesn’t agree well with their donors),” Simic added in one of two follow-up tweets. In the other, he called Pelosi’s tax scheme “a back-door malicious ploy by Pelosi & Donors Inc to torpedo any chance for Medicare4All (as funding it has to include some tax increase across the board).”

“This is nothing new or surprising,” Teodrose Fikre replied in another tweet. “#Pelosi is a centrist which is really another word for corporatist, everything she does is for the benefit of the well-to-do while she throws platitudes at her ‘base’ (which by the way is insulting to be called that).”

“NO! Pelosi, I am in your corner but not if you do stupid stuff,” another tweeter, joancvp, added. “Midterms are over, you won, now get down to business fighting tooth and nail against Repubs who will never give in on anything…and passing Medicare for All. @NancyPelosi

“@NancyPelosi ….. what are you guys thinking? Dems won’t get a do over if they screw the agenda that got them the House Majority. Would the Rs do this??? No way,” tweeted Jeanette Mardinly.

“What about with a 35% tax on corporate profits, like we had not so very long ago?” Tim Havel asked in another tweet.

“Leave it to Democrats to pre-emptively give up and surrender, in the name of being tough. Some master legislator,” Will Olson sarcastically tweeted, referring to Pelosi’s reputation for pushing measures through.

“Why is Democrats’ first move always major compromise?” ponder61 tweeted to both Pelosi and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., another potential presidential hopeful. “@HillaryClinton wiped Single Payer off the table in 1993. @NancyPelosi you gotta at least START with more than you can get, not less!”

“At a time when there is a genuine surge by the populace to ignite Real Change, the Dems appear to be throwing it all away with infighting & lack of consensual focus. It’s Do or Die,” E.F. Rowland concluded in a tweet.


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.