If the drama of the first two years of the Obama presidency is any indication, it's obvious that single-payer healthcare won't be coming at a national level any time soon. Fortunately, however, individual states can carry the torch where the national system is too corrupt to do so. While single-payer has passed in Vermont, the real reforms will come when big states with negotiating leverage enact it and begin to drive costs down in a big way while expanding and ameliorating coverage. California seemed like the likeliest big state to begin this process: after all, Governor Schwarzenegger twice vetoed a single-payer bill that had made its way through the legislature. So with Jerry Brown in office, it seemed reasonable to expect that the same bill would make it to the Governor's desk for a signature.
But not so fast:
California's "Medicare for all" universal health care legislation fell short of the 21 votes needed to pass the state Senate today.
Senate Bill 810 failed on a 19-15 vote during this morning's floor session, with four moderate Democrats abstaining and one voting no.
Democratic Sen. Mark Leno, who authored the bill, said the proposal would stabilize health care costs and expand access to coverage.
He called the bill, which does not include funding to cover the projected $250 billion annual cost of running the single-payer system, the first step in a "many year project" that will likely require asking voters to approve financing. He encouraged members to support the bill to allow the policy discussion to continue.
No Republicans voted for the bill. Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Moorpark, criticized the proposal as an attempt to create "another costly and inefficient bureaucracy."
"There's no doubt that we need health care reform, there's no doubt that we need to improve our health care system, but members, this is not the bill to move forward," he said.
The bill faces a Tuesday deadline for passing the state Senate in the current legislative session.
That's my Republican State Senator Tony Strickland, who narrowly beat my good friend progressive Hannah-Beth Jackson by under 900 votes in the last election, and who is now running for Congress after redistricting made his Senate seat too Democratic to handle (Hannah-Beth will likely pick up the seat this year over primary opposition from anti-tax conservadem Jason Hodge.) Redistricting elsewhere in California should give us a couple more Senate seats as well going into 2013.
But the problem here isn't so much Tony Strickland. The problem is the gutless Democrats in blue districts who have nothing to lose by voting against single-payer healthcare when there's actually a chance of passing it, except for the wrath of insurance companies if they go for higher office. But rather than voting for or against the bill, they simple abstained, in the most gutless move possible. jpmassar has a rundown of their identities and contact information:
Senator Alex Padilla (Pacoima/LA area)
Phone: (916) 651-4020
Senator Juan Vargas (San Diego area)
Phone: (916) 651-4040
Fax: (916) 327-3522
Senator Michael Rubio (Fresno/Bakersfield area)
Phone: (916) 651-4016
Senator Rod Wright (Los Angeles area)
Phone: (916) 651-4025
Fax: (916) 445-3712
Some of them have tougher districts than others; Padilla, for instance, is utterly inexcusable as he's in a solid blue district. But it doesn't matter. Regardless of how tough the district, and even if one grants the unlikely theory that taking a "yea" vote on single-payer would be career suicide, this issue above all is a bill to fall on one's sword for. The opportunity to really and truly pass single-payer healthcare is why one gets into Democratic politics. It's the equivalent of taking the game-winning shot at the buzzer in Game 7 of the finals, or kicking the winning field goal in the Super Bowl. And these sniveling cowards didn't just miss the shot; they didn't even pull the trigger.
Then, of course, there are the two truly awful Conservadems in the CA Senate, Ron Calderon and Lou Correa, who voted "no". Their contact information is below--though getting through to them is like talking to a brick wall:
Senator Ron Calderon
Phone: (916) 651-4030
Senator Lou Correa
Phone: (916) 651-4034
Yes, there's much to fault the Obama Administration for over the last few years. But the President didn't have the opportunity to cast a deciding vote on passing single-payer healthcare for tens of millions of people. These guys did, and they blew it on the big stage.
Call them. Email them. Make them feel the heat of ten thousand suns. They deserve no less. They can still change their minds before the Tuesday deadline, but they're running out of time
And rest assured that as long as I'm involved in California politics, this California Democratic Executive Board member will work to oppose each and every one of them in a primary for any office they might seek in the future if this bill doesn't go to the Governor's desk this year.
Cross-posted from Digby's Hullabaloo