December 20th, 2009
04:19 PM ET
10 months ago

Progressives' battle for reform not over, union leader says

'What we've done and what we do is fight for what we believe in,' SEIU president Andy Stern said Sunday.
'What we've done and what we do is fight for what we believe in,' SEIU president Andy Stern said Sunday.

Washington (CNN) –Senate Democrats appear to have come up with a deal that holds their fragile caucus together in the face of a promised Republican filibuster of health care reform, but a top Democratic backer said Sunday that the fight for more progressive principles in the bill is not over.

Appearing Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union, Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, walked a fine line between continuing to express support for President Obama and threatening liberal grassroots action in the final stages of the year-long fight over health care reform or even ultimately withholding his influential union’s support for the final bill that could be presented to Obama early next year.

Asked about the Senate’s use of a tax on so-called high-premium, “Cadillac” insurance plans to help pay the bill’s nearly $900 billion price tag, Stern suggested his union would continue to oppose the tax.

“What we've done and what we do is fight for what we believe in,” Stern told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King.

“So, where we are now is we're saying to the president, to the House and to the Senate, we get another shot in the conference committee to deal with affordability issues,” Stern also said Sunday. “People need to be able to afford it, and that's what the fight is about.”

Stern listed areas where he thought the final bill could be changed before being sent to the Oval Office for Obama’s signature: the level of subsidies in the House and Senate bills provided to those who cannot afford entirely to pay for insurance on their own; taxing health care benefits including the high-premium plans many unions have negotiated on behalf of their members, and more regulation of the insurance industry.

But the union head was blunt and realistic about what will not be included in the bill.

“There is not going to be a public option, there is not going to be Medicare buy-in. I'm as disappointed as anyone. But progressives out there - it's about progress, and we now have to fight for the changes we want in the conference committee, and then make a decision when it's over.”

And Stern suggested that Democrats could pay dearly in next year’s midterm elections if more of the concerns of his members are not addressed in the final version of the health care reform bill.

“Our members are no different than anyone else,” Stern told King. “They elected 60 Democratic senators because they promised them they would promote change. And all we've done with that gift, I would say, is squander it. You know, we have not even been able to have a legitimate debate about some of these issues in the Senate. So I think people are going to look: did we get change, did people fight for change? I think it's clear they think that President Obama is fighting for health care, he's fighting for jobs, he's fighting for other issues. I think it's also very clear they're really disappointed with the Senate, you know, not being able to have a debate. This is crazy, that [senators] can use their individual votes to distort democracy. Americans wanted them to have real debates, they promised them an opportunity, and they need to do something about it.

“They need to have a reset button in the Democratic Caucus after this is over,” Stern said of the Senate, “and say what did we come here to do? Was it really to let any of one of us stop a debate in the U.S. Senate? That's not what people voted for.”

While he repeatedly criticized the Senate and its procedures, Stern had praise for the president.

“We are really proud that this president has kept this health care debate alive right now. It is pretty easy to say that on this road to change, there could have been a lot of exit ramps and detours, but the president has stuck to his course.”

According to information released by the White House, Stern has the distinction of being the most frequent visitor to the executive mansion since Obama took office nearly a year ago.


Filed under: Health care • State of the Union
soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. Katie

    I'm sooo sick of Republicans.....will they ever grow up? I doubt it. Sure ain't the party Mom and Pop once supported.

    December 20, 2009 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  2. This is an abomination!

    THIS is health care reform?

    NO! This is buying votes by a corrupt administration.

    THIS is nothing more than the despicable giving a “Christmas present” to a corrupt president and his legislative henchmen.

    THIS is legislative cheating under the cloak of darkness.

    THIS destroys the world’s greatest healthcare system, with the most amazing medical technology advances any country has ever experienced.

    THIS decimates healthcare for seniors.

    THIS institutes healthcare rationing for the weak and vulnerable.

    THIS dictates “pay now, suffer later.”

    THIS is an abomination.

    THIS will cost the Democrats dearly in the next elections.

    Keep fighting this until the bitter end, GOP! We will remember – and we won’t let you down at the ballot box!

    December 20, 2009 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  3. mavcal

    With all the adds and drops, does any American, at this point, really know what is in that health care "reform" legislation? I bet the insurance companies do, as they calculate their offense. All of this is just to appease Obama's massive ego. That's what this amounts to. This has bad karma written all over it and once again, American's will be left holding the bag and paying the price. Wait and see.

    December 20, 2009 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  4. Liberals are worthless

    Democrats bribing Democrats with taxpayers' money!

    They belly up to the public trough and pass around the pork to pass a bill that will doesn't address health care costs.

    Hope and change you can believe in. LOL...

    December 20, 2009 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  5. JP

    So the head of the SEIU is the most frequent visitor to the White House. Nothing destroys jobs quicker than a union. SEIU was formed by the same thugs who started ACORN. Do a search on SEIU and fraud.

    December 20, 2009 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  6. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Republicans spread nothing but false propaganda and they learned that from GWB who started the war on false propaganda and they got away with it, but not this time.

    December 20, 2009 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  7. Ina

    About lefties and righties. If God is the oldest, ultimate right wing conservative, is the devil the oldest ultimate left wing liberal?

    December 20, 2009 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  8. Hammerer

    Stern is just blowing smoke. This administration owns Stern lock, stock and barrel.
    To say he will do anything is part of the charade that is being played for the benefit of the public. A game by the administration and congress to cover the corruption unfolding before your eyes, aided by the media's coverage.

    December 20, 2009 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  9. dorothy hackney

    Vote every one out of office that does not support the health reform bill...those people sit up there with the best health care in the world and deny the american the same, and we are the ones that pay for theirs...and also the best pension in the world, that they do not pay a penny for....WE PAY FOR IT ALL...AND THEY WANT US TO BELIEVE THEM???? NO I...AND NEITHER SHOULD YOU SUPPORT THE ONES THAT WILL NOT VOTE FOR HEALTH CARE FOR ALL AMERICANS ! ! !

    December 20, 2009 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  10. GI Joe

    The party of NO just wants back in power so they can start a war with IRAN. Nothing for us – no ideas, no help – just more wars.

    December 20, 2009 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  11. terry,va

    I bet you a million Obummie dollars that the Union members will not have to pay taxes on their health care plans. Obummie and the dumbocraps will make an exception for them. Obummie bows to Stern and the Unions more than he did to country leaders, their dogs and everyone else on his last whirl wind feel good tour.

    December 20, 2009 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  12. Joe Biden

    This bill accomplishes nothing more than further governmental control. We need jobs.

    December 20, 2009 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  13. charlie in Maine

    Bill Clinton once said"We must not let the "perfect" become the enemy of "the good" Never has this advise been more apt than with the healthcare debate.

    Is it great? No I want a single payer system and I want the insurance company execs having a little jug of coins at the local grocery store to raise funds for thier yahts. But that ain't gonna happen in this country at this time so hold your nose liberals and vote for this thing.

    As Bob Dylan would say "keep your eyes wide the chance won't come again"

    December 20, 2009 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  14. Mr Joshua

    Unions......... Living large off the public dime......

    December 20, 2009 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  15. Watchdog

    Now that the people see what they are all about, let's make sure these "Progressives" are the first ones out the door this november!!!

    December 20, 2009 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  16. Anonymous

    This is an abomination!, you CLEARLY have no clue what you're talking about. I love the drama behind your presentation of talking points, though.

    December 20, 2009 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  17. Dan, TX

    These unions have destroyed jobs in this country and the economy. We do not need any reforms from SEIU or the messiah. Throw them out of their jobs. I hope Barack Obama will learn a lesson soon because he is systematically destroying our economy and our jobs.

    December 20, 2009 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  18. Jenn, Philadelphia

    Of course he thinks the President is doing a great job, he bought and paid for him. This guy has visited the White House at least 22 times in the 11 months since the swearing in. Why? Obviously to give the administration it's marching orders. There are more people in this country who aren't in unions. They should not get to decide how to spend our money.

    December 20, 2009 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  19. Obamalism

    The bill is a fraud. If it was that good, you'd think they'd have let us know what's in it for weeks. THE ENTIRE BILL WAS CRAFTED BEHIND PELOSI'S CLOSED DOORS. This will not end well.

    December 20, 2009 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  20. Truth-Bomb Thrower

    Now that most Americans have learned wat the the word "liberal" means, liberals are now trying to change their name to "progressives,"
    even though their views are the exact opposite of what the word "progressive" means. At least conservatives don't try to change their name in order to hide what they stand for.

    December 20, 2009 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  21. Dan, TX

    The goal of the republican party is to make sure government fails in everyhing.

    Their philosophy is that government fails at everything it controls. The strategy for republicans is to make sure every government department and program is a total failure so they can prove their philosophy is correct.

    Look what they did when they had control of the White House and Congress. Republicans want the same "success" with the democrats in controls, government incompetence by design.

    December 20, 2009 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  22. Willy Brown

    Obamacare is all about paying back big unions and lobbyist. So much for that change and hope crap you liberals bought into but you all are not the sharpest knives in the drawer and that’s why democrats like ewe.

    December 20, 2009 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  23. unemployed by Obama and now a TPN member

    Looks like more people are being added to the revolution against obamacare and the demon congress.

    December 20, 2009 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  24. sue

    is this is a abomination talking about George Bush and te republicans who pushed and hid things from the amercan people for 8 years and almostput this country in a DEPRESSION , THANKS FOR POINTING IT OUT AGAIN SOO WE NEVER FORGET THOSE YEARS.

    December 20, 2009 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  25. Joe M

    This guy is nothing more than another UNION THUG...Just like all of the rest of them and Obozo..

    December 20, 2009 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
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