SEIU Andy Stern sent a letter today to members, stopping short of opposing the Senate bill, but calling for Obama to help make signficant changes in it in conference. In a follow up conference call with reporters, he held out on pledging support for a final bill.
From the letter:
Last night, we held a meeting with your International Executive Board--leaders from across the country. Leaders who know you, who understand what you are going through, and above all else, who believe that every one of you deserves a chance to weigh in on our next steps.
We talked about everything that makes this reform meaningful:
- The 30 million more people who will have healthcare they can count on;
- The people who will no longer lose their coverage if they get sick;
- All of us who no longer have to worry about being denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions;
- Women who will no longer be discriminated against just because of their gender.
- But we also recognized, that like you, we have concerns.
And while it is not entirely clear what the Senate bill will look like, it is becoming clearer that:
- For many people, care will still be too expensive to afford.
- Some of you would face an additional burden because your health insurance benefits would be taxed.
- And the best way we saw possible to hold insurance companies accountable was no longer an option.
So we asked ourselves - and we are asking you - the most critical question we have of this entire debate: where do we go from here?
We know we will fight. We will continue to fight for everything we know is important. We will fight to make care affordable. We will fight for real health insurance reforms. We will fight for employers to provide their employees with coverage. And, we will fight to pay for all of it responsibly without a tax on your benefits.
But we aren't the only ones who must fight.
President Obama must remember his own words from the campaign. His call of "Yes We Can" was not just to us, not just to the millions of people who voted for him, but to himself. We all stood shoulder to shoulder with the President during his hard fought campaign. And, we will continue to stand with him but he must fight for the reform we all know is possible. He must fight for Cynthia, Maria, and Gerry - for every American.
Stern clarified in a follow up press call that he doesn't support the Senate bill as is, but won't oppose it, saying "it's time to move on, it's time for a vote," and called for "obstructionist Senators" to get out of the way and allow for it to be "voted up or down."
Hammering the themes of affordability, stronger insurance reforms, adequate subsidies, and making the financing fair--nixing the excise tax, Stern is looking for a fix on conference. Asked if he really trusted the conference committee to break precedent and actually make a better bill, Stern demurred, but said that Obama should "step in now and use all the powers of persuasion he has to make sure the people get what they need, quality affordable healthcare," and then to be directly involved with the conference and to work for those things "he said from the very beginning were important to him and work to get those done."
When asked if there was any chance that he'll actually fight passage of a final bill if it's essentially the Senate bill, he replied that the "only thing we're fighting is to improve quality of the bill now," and then he'll go to his membership to decide whether to oppose the final product.