The main topic of the interview was health care. Earlier in the week, of course, Kucinich said that he was willing to be the deciding vote against this health care bill. However, on Democracy Now! the Congressman said that his vote was not by a long shot a guaranteed "no:"
AMY GOODMAN: Is anything that would cause you to support the bill at this point?
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, I mean, it’s—we don’t have the vote yet. The ball is still in play. The White House could decide that in order to pass the bill, they need to put public option in it, a meaningful public option. That would certainly get my attention. Or they could decide that they also want to protect the right of states to proceed with single payer, and not some place far into the future, but do it now. I mean, you have movements in Pennsylvania and in California, in my own state of Ohio, for states to be able to take responsibility for healthcare. I mean, create the possibility now. Let the momentum go in many different areas. But to say 2017 at best, and then it’s an if-come waiver to not permit the states to have legal protection against challenge by the insurance companies?
I should just mention here that I’m involved with the movement for single payer in Pennsylvania, which is currently supporting a bipartisan bill (with support from the governor and the state Democratic party, as well) in the state legislature.
There are two things that Kucinich is demanding, and apparently trying to get by building up pressure, from the health care bill. It remains unclear if he would vote for a bill with just one of the two. One is, of course, a strong public option, a subject which has been covered to death. The other is a way to change ERISA so that it does not interfere with implementing single payer systems on a state by state basis.
AMY GOODMAN: Congressman Kucinich, President Obama says that the Senate bill does include single-payer language. He was talking about a provision by Senator Bernie Sanders which would allow states to use federal money to set up a single-payer system years down the road. What do you think of that?
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, it provides for a waiver; it doesn’t grant the waiver. And it takes effect 2017. But by then, we’ll already have a system in place that will be very difficult to move out of. And it doesn’t cure the attack that insurance companies can make on state plans using the Employee—the ERISA Act. And so, my amendment that was passed in committee would have protected states from illegal challenge by insurance companies. The Sanders amendment doesn’t do that, so you still have the problem that, no matter what reforms are enacted, can be knocked out. I mean, I talked to the President personally about this. I’ve met with the President three times on this bill. The White House knows my position.
He was also asked to directly respond to what Markos Moulitsas said of him on the MSNBC show Countdown:
AMY GOODMAN: Our guest is Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio. Juan?
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Congressman, on the issue of healthcare, you’ve come under intense criticism by some commentators. Earlier this week, Markos Moulitsas, the founder of the website Daily Kos, appeared on MSNBC and slammed you for threatening to vote against the Democrats’ healthcare reform bill.
MARKOS MOULITSAS: [I’m going to hold] people like Dennis Kucinich responsible for the 40,000 Americans that die each year from a lack of healthcare. And I don’t care if you’re a Republican or you’re a conservative Democrat or you’re somebody like Dennis Kucinich. The fact is, this does a heck of a lot for a lot of people. And like I said, it’s not perfect, it definitely needs to be improved, but it’s a first step. And God knows, it’s taken us a long time to even get our toe in the door, given the corporate interests that are arrayed against any kind of real reform. So I think this is a first step. It’s definitely not the end of the path. It’s not the ideal solution. But we are—our foot’s in the door. And if somebody like Kucinich wants to block that, I find that completely reprehensible.
And he’s elected, not to run for president, which he seems to do every four years. He’s not elected to grandstand and to—and to give us this ideal utopian society. He’s elected to represent the people of his district, and he’s not representing the uninsured constituents in his district by pretending to take the high ground here. What he’s doing, he’s undermining this reform. He’s making common cause with the Republicans. And I think that’s a perfect excuse and a rationale for a primary challenge.
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, you know, I brought the issue of single-payer healthcare before three separate meetings of the Democratic Platform Committee. I brought it into two presidential campaigns to raise the bar about what’s possible. Now I made a compromise when I backed the public option and voted for it in committee. I also had an amendment passed that would protect the rights of states to proceed with a single-payer approach at a state level. Each step along the way, I’ve shown a willingness to try to work with the White House so that we can have meaningful healthcare reform. I signed a letter, along with seventy-seven other members of Congress, saying that I would not vote for the bill unless it had a robust public option. At this point, I’m the only one left standing who has kept that pledge.
I think that we have to ask ourselves why we would have a circumstance where, you know, a week or two before a vote would come, that it would be said that this is going to come down to a single member of Congress, who stands for healthcare for all, Medicare for all, who stands for a public option, who stands to protect right of states, to pursue it, and yet, we should sweep all that aside in favor of a bill that gives the insurance companies a lock on health insurance in America, privatizes the health insurance—$70 billion-a-year subsidy to the insurance industry.
Kucinich has reiterated these ideas elsewhere, such as ABC’s Top Line (skip to about 4 minutes into the video).
“You know, this thing isn’t over. They know what they have to do to get the votes and if they need my vote badly enough I suppose they have to think about a robust public option and about the [Employee Retirement Income Security Act], addressing the ERISA preemption which would in effect, protect states from a tax by insurance companies if the states want to establish a single-payer system.”
“I think that the Democrats ought not to be fronting for insurance company interests, and frankly every time they lay a bill out insurance stocks go up. I mean, how — how would that happen?” he added. “I mean, we have to have a bill for the American people and if the administration wants to change its position, I’m all ears.”
Before health care, Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez asked Kucinich about the symbolic resolution on Afghanistan that he introduced and was subsequently voted on, about which he said,
I felt, after a eight-and-a-half years, we had waited long enough to have the debate, and so I used the War Powers Act to create the debate.
I’m glad there was a debate. Now Congress has taken responsibility. The debate didn’t turn out the way I would have liked it to, but at least we brought it into the public’s awareness that Congress has now entered into essentially affirming the Obama administration’s policy on Afghanistan.
The /Citizens United/ decision and the death of Granny D were both mentioned, as well.
What an amazing woman, who lived her life with great passion and commitment to the highest principles of our country. Her commitment to seeing real campaign finance reform, you know, has really been a central part of a movement that tells us we have to change the way we finance elections in order to reclaim our government.