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Advocates for A.B. 1400, California's single-payer healthcare bill, pose for a photo at one of the numerous automobile caravan rallies promoting the measure. (Photo: National Nurses United) 

Progressives Vow to 'Fight Like Hell' as California Single-Payer Bill Withdrawn

"We are not gonna give up on our patients," said California Nurses Association president Sandy Reding. "We are there when they take their first breath, we are there when they take their last breath. We will prevail."

Brett Wilkins

This is a developing story... please check back for possible updates...

California progressives on Monday expressed shock and outrage as a bill that, if passed, would have delivered single-payer healthcare coverage to the nation's most populous state was withdrawn from a highly anticipated floor vote in the state Assembly.

"Our Democratic supermajority showed its true colors and its loyalty to the profits of the healthcare industry over the needs of their constituents."

Minutes before A.B. 1400—the California Guaranteed Health Care for All Act—was scheduled for a floor vote in the California State Assembly, co-author Ash Kalra (D-27) pulled the measure from consideration. Monday was the last day for the bill on the legislative calendar.

In a statement, California Nurses Association (CNA)—the bill's sponsor—said: "Today, elected leaders in California had the opportunity to put patients first and set an example for the whole country by passing A.B. 1400... in the state Assembly. Instead, Assembly Member Ash Kalra, the main author of the bill, chose not to hold a vote on this bill at all, providing cover for those who would have been forced to go on the record about where they stand on guaranteed healthcare for all people in California."

The statement continued: 

Nurses condemn this failure by elected representatives to put patients above profits, especially during the worst surge of Covid-19 yet, at a time when it's more clear than ever before that healthcare must be a right, not just a privilege for those who can afford it.

Nurses are especially outraged that Kalra chose to just give up on patients across the state. Nurses never give up on our patients, and we will keep fighting with our allies in the grassroots movement for CalCare until all people in California can get the care they need, regardless of ability to pay.

Kalra issued a statement explaining that "it became clear that we did not have the votes necessary for passage and I decided the best course of action is to not put A.B. 1400 for a vote today." 

"We will not give up," the San José progressive added. "Healthcare is a human right and CalCare has made clear the just path as an alternative to the inequitable system we have in place today." 

CNA president Sandy Reding said during a Zoom watch party whose attendees were anxiously anticipating an Assembly floor vote on A.B. 1400: "This isn't our first setback, but this is the farthest we've come. You think we're gonna let them get away with this? No, we will not."

"We will continue to fight... so that we can make sure it goes through the next time," she continued. "We have never gotten this far before, and we are not gonna give up on our patients, we are not gonna give up on our communities. We are there when they take their first breath, we are there when they take their last breath."

"We will prevail," vowed Reding. "We are in this fight to win it, and we will win."

The California Democratic Party Progressive Caucus issued a statement affirming it will follow through on a pledge to pull endorsements from Democratic state lawmakers who did not support A.B. 1400. 

"To be clear, the bill was not going to pass," the caucus said. "While we remain unsurprised to see special interests and big donors succeed in stopping this historic anti-poverty measure, we are still deeply disappointed to see our Democratic supermajority fail to move forward our party priorities."

The statement added: 

Last week the Progressive Caucus made a commitment to use the State Democratic Party endorsement process to hold accountable those Assembly members that failed to support CalCare. Our commitment has not wavered. Our delegates and volunteers have identified dozens of candidates who either indicated they opposed the measure or failed to support it. Our caucus will continue with its plans to pull their endorsements.

Healthcare is a human right, and in the midst of a global pandemic, our Democratic supermajority showed its true colors and its loyalty to the profits of the healthcare industry over the needs of their constituents. This is not a fight between "progressives" and "moderates," but a fight between what is right and the greed and cruelty of our healthcare industry.

California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-63) said in a statement that "the shortage of votes needed to pass this bill out of the Assembly indicates the immense difficulty of implementing single-payer healthcare in California." 

Rendon added that he is "deeply disappointed" that Kalra failed to bring the bill to a vote. 

California Democratic Party Progressive Caucus Chair Amar Shergill told the watch party that he was "gutted" by Kalra's decision. 

"We deserved a vote, and we didn't get it," he said. "We deserve to know who our friends are and those people who aren't with us, so that we can target them in the next election." 

CNA organizer Alyssa Kang ended the meeting on a hopeful note, saying, "We will prevail, it's just a matter of time." 

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