In a lengthy interview on Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman, Congressman Dennis Kucinich explained why he would not vote for the present health care bill and defended his position against attacks from people on the left like Markos Moulitsas. He also spoke about the subjects of Afghanistan, campaign finance, and the passing of activist Granny D.
I mean, I have a responsibility to take a stand here on behalf of those who want a public option. There's about thirty-four members of the Senate, at least, who have signed on to saying they support a public option. If I were to just concede right now and say, "Well, you know, whatever you want. All this pressure's building. Just forget about it," actually weakens every last-minute bit of negotiations that would try to improve the bill. So I think that it's really critical to take this stand, because without it, there's no real control over premiums. Without it, we have nothing in the bill except the privatization of our healthcare system.
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.