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CT AFL-CIO: Healthcare, Who Needs It?


When I met John Olsen of the AFL-CIO at a picnic given in support of Joe Lieberman before the primary, he told me that one of the main reasons the union supported Joe was because of his excellent record on healthcare (‘cos it sure wasn’t due to his votes on NAFTA and CAFTA).  I took issue with the assertions about Joe’s support for healthcare, some strong words were exchanged and neither one of us changed each others’ minds.

Olsen faced strong opposition within his own union for supporting Joe, and now that Joe has left the party many within the AFL-CIO — including AFSCME, which recently endorsed Lamont — have been putting pressure on the leadership to abandon its unnatural love of Lieberman and back Lamont.  Olsen told the NYT yesterday that they won’t, however.  So it might be time to once again revisit Joe’s record on healthcare, which as Daily Cup of Joe reminds us, is something less than "excellent":

  • During the 2003 consideration of President Bush’s destructive Medicare Part D bill, Sen. Joe Lieberman issued 8 press releases claiming he was outraged about the legislation and promising to do whatever he could to stop it. Yet, when it came time to vote on the bill and on amendments to fix the bill, Lieberman was nowhere to be found. He attended just 4 out of the Senate’s 38 votes on the Medicare bill, opting instead to hold fundraisers in California for himself so that he could add to the more than $1.8 million in health industry campaign contributions he has raked in over the last 6 years. 
  • One of the votes Lieberman skipped was on legislation that would have allowed Medicare and individuals to purchase FDA-approved medicines at lower, world-market prices. The legislation died in Lieberman’s absence.
  • Not only did Lieberman skip roughly 90 percent of all votes on the most sweeping health care reform legislation in almost 4 decades, he actually issued a press release just before the key vote on final passage attempting to pretend he was actually present, even though he was not. Specifically, Lieberman issued a press release on 11/24/03 claiming he "cast his vote against the Medicare prescription drug bill conference report." In fact, while Lieberman voted on two procedural matters that day, he did not "cast his vote against the Medicare prescription drug bill conference report" – he actually skipped that final, crucial vote.
  • In the 1990s, Lieberman spearheaded the effort to shut down any congressional debate over health care. On 8/20/94, Knight Ridder newspapers reported that the "dream of guaranteed, cradle-to-grave health insurance for all Americans appeared to be dead Friday" after Lieberman introduced legislation designed to effectively undermine and kill major health reform being debated in the Senate. Since that time, Lieberman has not pushed any serious plan to expand health care to all Americans.
  • In his role leading the effort to stop the congressional debate over universal health care, Lieberman proposed a poison-pill plan that, according to the Boston Globe, "would limit employers’ ability to deduct health costs from their taxes in order to encourage more careful buying of coverage." Lieberman voted for draconian legislation in 1997 that, according to PBS, slashed $140 billion out of "Medicare and Medicaid spending and also includes a $20 a month increase in Medicare premiums." The Lieberman bill also "require[d] senior citizens earning $50,000 a year or more to pay even higher premiums" for Medicare. And, on 1/23/03, Lieberman skipped a close vote on legislation that, according to official Senate records, would have significantly "increase[d] funding for reducing health disparities and promoting minority health" through public health programs.

And what’s the alternative to No Show Joe?

"Every American should have access to affordable, quality health care coverage," Ned Lamont has said. "A comprehensive health system should be a fundamental part of a nation that will make us proud, a nation that is strong, caring and competitive in a global economy. The time to act is now.  I am ready to be an activist Senator who is willing to stand up and pursue bold solutions to protect the health of Connecticut families.O

Once again, I think Lil’ Jimmy’s got some explaining to do to his membership.  His continuing refusal to endorse Lamont — even  in the wake of so much internal pressure from his own people — seems both unfounded and quite personal.  

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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