AFL-CIO throws its weight behind the health-care bill, despite earlier doubts
By Alec MacGillis
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has a message for labor-friendly Democrats like Massachusetts Rep. Stephen Lynch who say they are still not ready to support the health-care overhaul: it's good enough for us.
Trumka said in a conference call with reporters Thursday afternoon that the labor federation has voted overwhelmingly to support the final version of the health-care bill, despite the fact that it lacks many elements the AFL has sought.
"We're saying look, the status quo doesn't work. Is this a perfect bill? No... It's an important first step," he said. "Every time in the past, insurance companies were able to stop any health-care reform from happening. This time they won't be successful, and we'll have a strong platform to build out into the future."
Last fall, Trumka warned darkly that the federation would not support any bill that lacked a public option, or government-run insurance plan; that included a tax on high-cost insurance plans; and that lacked a strong employer mandate for providing insurance. The final bill lacks a public option and the employer mandate is weaker than what organized labor had sought. It also has a tax on high-cost plans, though the tax has been postponed until 2018 to lessen its impact.
To make the bill's numbers balance out, congressional leaders in recent days made a tweak that will increase the tax's impact once it does kick in, but Trumka said that the AFL-CIO could still live with it.
"Because of the effort of the AFL-CIO, we've been able to make this bill far more progressive," he said. "Eighty percent of the excise tax has been eliminated. It's a far more progressive bill, a better bill."
Trumka was asked about Lynch, a former union member from working-class South Boston who announced today that he could not support the Senate bill because it was not tough enough on the insurance companies. If Lynch remains a no vote, it would be a major blow to the Democrats.
"We will be making house calls and visits, letters will be sent from local people as well as international leaders," Trumka said. "Each one of the congressmen who decide they're supporting the bill we go all out for."
For a full list of how representatives have said they will vote -- and who remains undecided -- see The Post's comprehensive and continuously updated "Who's in play" graphic.
March 18, 2010; 5:29 PM ET
Categories: 44 The Obama Presidency , Health Care
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