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Michael Lighty, 510-772-8384 or Charles Idelson, 415-559-8991
The nation's largest union and professional association of
registered nurses today hailed passage of a key amendment in the
House Education and Labor Committee to the national healthcare
reform bill this morning that would enable individual states to
go a step farther and adopt single-payer, Medicare-for-All style
Introduced by Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, the amendment
would remove potential legal impediments for states to pass
single-payer bills by waiving federal exemptions that apply to
employer-sponsored health plans.
The amendment passed on a bi-partisan vote of 25-19, with the
support of both progressive, single-payer Democrats and many
Republicans who endorsed the ability of individual states to
pass their own versions of health care reform.
"This is a historic moment for patients, for American
families, and for the tens of thousands of nurses and other
single-payer activists from coast to coast who can now work in
state capitols to pass single-payer bills, the strongest, most
effective solution of all to our healthcare crisis," said Rose
Ann DeMoro, executive director of the California Nurses
Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee.
"There are many models of health care reform from which to
choose around the world - the vast majority of which
perform far better than ours. The one that has been the most
tested here and abroad is single-payer," said Kucinich in urging
passage of the amendment.
"Under a single-payer system everyone in the U.S. would get a
card that would allow access to any doctor at virtually any
hospital. Doctors and hospitals would continue to be privately
run, but the insurance payments would be in the public hands. By
getting rid of the for-profit insurance companies, we can save
$400 billion per year and provide coverage for all medically
necessary services for everyone in the U.S.," Kucinich said.
The nurses noted there is a long road ahead for the
amendment. It will still need approval from the full House and
in a final version from the Senate. Nurses and other healthcare
and community activists made numerous calls to legislators in
support of the amendment, and will continue to press for its
enactment in the final bill.
For those who have opposed the proposal, DeMoro called it "a
very modest amendment that simply protects choice for residents
of individual states who favor more comprehensive reform."
Recent reports from both the Department of Health and Human
Services and the prestigious medical journal Health
Affairs have documented that compared to people with
private insurance, Medicare enrollees have greater access to
care, fewer problems with medical bills, and greater
satisfaction with their health plans and the quality of care
The reason for improved access, quality, and lower costs
under Medicare, said DeMoro, "is that under Medicare, insurance
companies, whose central focus is profits for their shareholders
not delivery of care, don't have the ability to deny care, limit
coverage, or continually raise prices that endanger the health
and financial security of patients."
"The successes and standards of Medicare should be the model
for reform for all Americans," said DeMoro. "If the final
national bill will not meet that test by establishing Medicare
for all, then let's give Americans the tools to pass it in
Currently, if states were to pass single-payer laws, as
California, for one, has twice, only to have the bill vetoed by
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, it could be subject to immediate
legal challenge due to the federal Employee Income Retirement
Security Act (ERISA) which applies to all employer-paid health
plans. The Kucinich amendment would provide an ERISA waiver.
National Nurses United, with close to 185,000 members in every state, is the largest union and professional association of registered nurses in US history.(240) 235-2000
"Total's record-breaking profits come at a steep cost: environmental devastation, human rights abuses, and climate chaos," said one advocacy group. "It's time to hold them accountable for their insatiable pursuit of wealth!"
Climate campaigners marched through central Paris Friday in the latest attempt to disrupt a shareholder meeting held by a major fossil fuel company, demanding that oil giant TotalEnergies adopt a resolution to sharply increase the pace of its greenhouse gas emissions reductions.
Advocacy groups including 350.org, Greenpeace, Scientist Rebellion, and Friends of the Earth France joined a reported 700 demonstrators outside the Salle Pleyel, the venue of Total's annual general meeting, with campaigners chanting, "All we want is to knock down Total" and "One, two, three degrees, we have Total to thank"—a reference to planetary heating and scientists' warnings that fossil fuel extraction must be drastically reduced in order to keep warming to less than 2°C above pre-industrial levels.
Banners carried by the protesters read, "The science is clear but Total is ignoring it" and "Floods, heatwaves, drought, pandemics: The world according to Total."
\u201cBlocage Total! @350France joins over 700 climate activists block @TotalEnergies 's AGM today to protest against its climate wrecking projects and massive profits.\n\n\ud83d\udcf7Claire Jaillard / @350\n\n#BlocageTotal #PeoplesHealthTribunal\u201d— 350 dot org (@350 dot org) 1685090522
Police targeted the demonstrators with tear gas and pepper spray, with some people being dragged away from the Salle Pleyel—moves that were condemned as "outrageous" by the campaign group Stop East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP), of which Total is the lead shareholder.
"Police resorted to extreme measures, dropping a tear gas grenade amidst a group of peaceful, seated, handcuffed activists at Total's AGM blockade," said the group. "This excessive force against non-violent individuals is utterly unacceptable!"
\u201c\ud83d\udea8 Outrageous! \ud83d\ude21 Police resorted to extreme measures, dropping a tear gas grenade amidst a group of peaceful, seated, handcuffed activists at Total's AGM blockade. This excessive force against non-violent individuals is utterly unacceptable! \ud83d\ude20 #BlocageTotal #StopEACOP\u201d— StopEACOP (@StopEACOP) 1685085784
Inside the meeting, the Dutch activist shareholder group Follow This pushed investors in Total to adopt a resolution committing the company to include Scope 3 emissions—those caused by the burning of Total's products by customers, such as airlines, or drivers—in its 2030 emissions targets and steeper absolute emissions cuts.
The resolution garnered the support of about 30% of shareholders, nearly doubling its support in 2020, the last time such a proposal was put forward. Seventeen investors who control a total of $1.2 million in the company voted in support of the resolution.
Follow This CEO Mark van Baal, whose group's motto is "Change from the inside," called the vote "a great outcome" and evidence of a growing "shareholder rebellion."
"One-third of investors say Total needs to decrease emissions by 2030 and that they can't hide behind their customers by saying Scope 3 emissions are not the company's responsibility," he toldFrance24.
The final vote on Total's climate pledge, however, approved emissions cuts only at the company's directly-owned facilities and garnered more than 88% of shareholder votes.
Greenpeace France on Friday acknowledged that Energy Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher toldFrance Info radio as the meeting convened that fossil fuel companies will have no future unless they shift to renewable energy and urged companies including Total to "re-invent themselves."
"But you know that these companies won't do anything without legal constraint," said the group. "We therefore expect strong political acts."
In the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's 2022 report, scientists said the world needs to reduce fossil fuel emissions by 43% from 2019 levels by 2030 in order to meet the Paris climate agreement's target of limiting planetary heating to less than 2°C.
As scientists and advocates have demanded companies including Total reduce their emissions, the company reported a net profit of $36.2 billion in 2022, doubling its earnings in the previous year.
"This isn't just a talking point; it's a real issue for people we work with every day," wrote Sarah Drory. "Restricting abortion—and creating a culture where people can't speak up about their experiences—hurts everyone."
Sarah Drory, Congressman Ro Khanna's deputy communications director, had an abortion—and with that healthcare under threat and widely stigmatized, she chose to share her story with the world.
"I was grateful to have the option to take the abortion pills, mifepristone and misoprostol, at home—a way to make this painful experience more bearable," Drory wrote Thursday for Elle. "I desperately wanted support, but I was worried about how it would be perceived."
"Of all places, I never thought I would bring it up at work," the California Democrat's staffer continued, noting that "on Capitol Hill, it often feels like there is immense pressure to be professional—and even perfect," and "I am also painfully aware of the stigma that exists around abortion."
As Drory detailed:
I watch day after day as Republican lawmakers, with whom I share elevators and hallways, attack abortion rights on social media, cable news, and in floor speeches. Even lawmakers who support abortion typically only bring it up in the context of policy; I rarely hear it talked about from a personal perspective among staff or members of Congress. And when they are talking about policy, it's common for politicians—including Democrats—to use euphemisms like 'reproductive rights' and 'women's healthcare,' which only adds to the stigma and the shame. Because of this environment, it felt like there wasn't space for me to share my experience with other staffers or even friends at work.
Since the right-wing U.S. Supreme Court's Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organizationruling leaked last May, a growing number of people in politics have spoken about their abortions. On Roe v. Wade's 50th anniversary in January, Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.)—who shared her abortion story just before Dobbs—said that "the chaos we've seen over the past six months is the environment anti-abortion politicians have worked for decades to create, and they won't stop with Roe."
The high court's Roe reversal has further emboldened right-wing activists and politicians, who are trying to use the legal system to cut off access to mifepristone nationwide and have passed state-level bans that physicians warn endanger patients' lives.
"Once I saw these restrictions, the toll on my mental health was overwhelming," Drory explained. "Physically and emotionally recovering from my abortion was difficult on its own, but being plugged into the news at work nearly every day was a scary reminder that access to abortion for me and millions of others could be threatened at any moment."
\u201cThis is an amazing piece in @ELLEmagazine by @sarah_drory on having an abortion while working in Congress and the wonderful support her boss, @RoKhanna, and colleagues offered her.\n\nThank you for sharing your story, Sarah!\nhttps://t.co/sdEyaBIbOw\u201d— Renee Bracey Sherman (@Renee Bracey Sherman) 1685103703
"So, I decided to tell my boss, Congressman Khanna. The congressman and my colleagues were nothing but supportive and empathetic, and it made me wish I had spoken up sooner and leaned on people around me for support," she wrote. "I'm fortunate to work for a member of Congress who not only cares deeply about our well-being but also offers generous sick leave, mental health days, and flex time for therapy appointments."
Drory—who also does communications work for the Congressional Workers Union—stressed that "I shared my story, because it's essential that, across Congress, we figure out ways to support our colleagues who have had abortions or are more generally struggling with their mental health."
"As congressional staff and members of Congress continue to help shape the national conversation around abortion, it's important to remember that this isn't just a talking point; it's a real issue for people we work with every day," she concluded. "Restricting abortion—and creating a culture where people can’t speak up about their experiences—hurts everyone. Building a nation that trusts people to choose their own healthcare—and supports them in telling their stories—is how we start to heal."
Khanna—who has received 100% ratings from NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund (PPFA) for his voting record—was among those who thanked Drory for her essay in Elle.
\u201cI\u2019m so grateful to work in an office where these conversations are possible.\n\nThanks to @_madisonline and @ELLEmagazine for helping me share my story.\u201d— Sarah Drory (@Sarah Drory) 1685049582
U.S. Senate Budget Committee researcher Aria Kovalovich wrote: "Thanks to my friend and former colleague... for sharing her story. Abortion isn't just a talking point; it's personal. Managers can tackle the stigma that makes it difficult to talk about mental health in Congress."
PPFA president Alexis McGill Johnson said she was "endlessly grateful to Sarah Drory for her bravery in sharing her abortion story," and that "everyone deserves a workplace... as supportive and empathetic as Rep. Ro Khanna's."
"Further evidence that this was never about the debt. It's about squeezing families to protect billionaires."
Republican negotiators are reportedly close to securing as much as $10 billion in cuts to recently approved Internal Revenue Service funding as part of a debt ceiling deal with the White House, a development that critics said further shows the GOP's ironclad commitment to shielding wealthy tax cheats as the party targets spending on aid programs for poor families.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) noted last month that cutting the $80 billion IRS funding boost that Democratic lawmakers approved as part of the Inflation Reduction Act would add to the federal budget deficit by constraining the agency's ability to audit the tax returns of rich individuals and corporations.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) argued Thursday that the Republican push for IRS funding cuts—which the Biden White House appears poised to accept as part of a broader agreement to raise the debt limit for two years—shows that the GOP is only "pretending to care about the deficit."
"Republicans are using the debt ceiling to hold the economy hostage," Warren wrote on Twitter. "One of their hostage demands? Cutting funding for the IRS to track down the hidden cash of wealthy tax cheats—funding that will raise as much as $1 trillion. Terrible idea."
Robert Weissman, president of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, echoed Warren, writing that "cutting [money] for the IRS is, simply, enabling tax cheating by the super-rich and corporations."
"That's the Republicans' top priority," Weissman added.
\u201cThe GOP is proposing cuts to IRS in #debtceiling talks.\n\nThis would allow billionaires to evade their taxes, which, wait for it\u2026ADDS to the deficit. \n\nFurther evidence that this was never abt the debt. Its about squeezing families to protect billionaires.\nhttps://t.co/qHw9Ka1umG\u201d— Melissa Boteach (@Melissa Boteach) 1685053140
The New York Timesreported Thursday that the Biden White House and Republican negotiators are currently discussing a deal under which "the IRS money would essentially shift to nondefense discretionary spending, allowing Democrats to avoid further cuts in programs like education and environmental protection."
The White House reportedly believes such a shift and other unspecified "budgetary maneuvers" could help lessen the pain of a two-year spending cap that Biden administration officials are negotiating with Republicans, who have demanded massive cuts to aid programs that help low-income Americans afford food, housing, and healthcare.
According toThe Washington Post, "negotiators agreed to slightly decrease spending on these domestic programs—giving House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) a key victory—while redirecting money from other parts of the federal budget, such as the IRS funding, which would effectively keep domestic spending flat for next year."
"Spending on veterans and the military will rise in line with the increases sought by the president's budget," the Post reported.
Jeff Hauser, executive director of the Revolving Door Project, rejected the notion that the spending cuts outlined in the latest reporting on the debt ceiling talks would be "modest."
"Any deal is a disaster since most government departments and agencies are currently severely underfunded," Hauser said in a statement. "'Non-defense discretionary spending' is a bloodless way to refer to the agencies required to ensure clean air, safe food, safe workplaces, and protect Americans from all forms of corporate abuse."
Hauser stressed that even if the White House is able to prevent domestic spending levels from falling below this year's levels, "it's likely that inflation will undercut the budget's actual spending power by 7-10%."
"Democrats should stand strong and tell Republicans that they refuse to make it easier for the rich to cheat on their taxes."
No deal has been finalized, and key issues—including the GOP push to attach new work requirements to aid programs—have yet to be resolved.
But outside progressives are raising serious concerns about the details of the emerging agreement, including the spending caps, the insertion of permitting reforms craved by the oil and gas industry, and the IRS funding cuts.
"It would be absurd and counterproductive for President Biden to give in to GOP demands to weaken the IRS' ability to catch wealthy tax cheats and prevent corporate tax fraud," said Igor Volsky, the executive director of Groundwork Action. "Republicans have made it clear that they aren't actually focused on the deficit and debt or they wouldn't have rejected raising revenue by closing tax loopholes used by the wealthy and well-connected."
"But to be clear: Weakening the IRS' ability to go after rich tax cheats would actually increase the deficit and push the burden onto the backs of workers and families," Volsky continued. "Democrats should stand strong and tell Republicans that they refuse to make it easier for the rich to cheat on their taxes."