Congressional Progressive Caucus Stepping Up Its Game– Policy And Politics

Written by on March 12, 2019


On Sunday we ran a post of how conservatives– of both parties– are helping special interests to undermine Medicare-For-All, Those Dirty Republican Dogs Trying To Kill Medicare-For-All! Oh… As you can imagine, the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), is mobilized to defend the bill and to keep pushing it forward. Yesterday, the author of the new and improved version of Medicare-For-All, Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), who is also co-chair of the CPC, explained how she sees that’s going on with those corporate attacks against the legislation:

We have always known that the for-profit insurance and pharmaceutical companies will pour hundreds of millions of dollars into defeating a real plan for universal health care–because they know it will mean curbing the massive profits and CEO salaries they are taking out of the system even as people die because they can’t afford insulin treatments, exploding drug prices or ever-increasing premiums and deductibles. But things have shifted dramatically over the past years and today, people are with us on the need for Medicare-for-All.

Today, we have won the debate around the need for universal health care. The majority of Americans believe health care is a right and not a privilege. Almost every American has a story to tell about choosing between paying rent and getting medical treatments; skipping prescriptions; or watching a loved one die because they waited too long to see the doctor. And Americans increasingly watch in shock as U.S. health outcomes stay the worst of all our peer countries– even as we spend the most of any industrialized country in the world on healthcare.

Our coalition this time around includes major labor unions who, in some cases, are endorsing my bill for the first time; disability rights, seniors and women’s groups to see Medicare-for-All as necessary for survival of all these communities; small- and medium sized businesses who know that the costs of healthcare are crippling their ability to be competitive; and nurses and physicians who are frustrated that they have to spend so much time on administrative waste instead of saving lives. We have more to do, but we start with the moral and economic imperative on our side to reform this broken system.

Every time someone asks about the cost of our program, I would turn the question back and ask if they know the cost of our CURRENT system. In 2019, the US is projected to spend $3.9 trillion– an amount that is projected to increase to $5.5 trillion by 2025. Even conservative think tanks estimate that moving to a Medicare-for-All system will actually save at least $2 trillion over a decade– while providing comprehensive care for everyone and reducing the healthcare expenditures of the average American family by 14% according to some estimates.

This won’t be easy. But no great leap in any civilization is ever easy. And if the American people continue to speak out about their experiences with our broken health care system, the costs their families are bearing RIGHT NOW, and demand that we re-orient our system to put patients over profits, we will win.

The CPC has learned that one battlefield that they must fight on if they are going to be able to deliver on aggressive legislation, like Medicare-For-All, is electoral. Unlike the conservative Blue Dogs and New Dems, the CPC hasn’t had any kind of real, substantive operation to recruit and support progressive candidates for Congress. That ended today when Pramila, Mark Pocan and Jamie Raskin hired progressive firebrand David Keith as the CPC’s first ever political director.

David Keith– tracking down Trump campaign’s finances

Keith was the campaign manager for one Los Angeles’s most progressive state legislators, Jimmy Gomez, when Gomez ran, successfully, for Congress. Today, Gomez is a member of the CPC and boasts one of the most spectacularly progressive records in Congress. Keith also worked for another strongly-progressive CPC member Chuy Garcia. Last cycle, he piloted the campaign of Randy Bryce– IronStache– which scared Paul Ryan into retiring halfway through the campaign. In the end, Ryan’s Wisconsin district was just too red for Bryce without Ryan in it, but the campaign was inspirational nationally and Bryce has started his own organization that endeavors to help working class candidates prepare for congressional runs. That aspect, bringing more candidates from working class backgrounds into Congress, was not lost on Keith or the CPC.

Former DCCC west coast regional vice chair Ted Lieu, like other members of the CPC who have worked with David, is enthusiastic about the hire. He told us he commends “the Progressive Caucus leadership team on their choice of David Keith to head up our recruitment operation. David is a proven campaign staffer with all the necessary progressive bona fides to be an exceptional political director. He did an excellent job running a campaign for Jimmy Gomez and he is a welcome addition to our CPC staff.”

This is a great position for him– and for progressives in electoral politics– and he told us that he’s “thrilled to be joining the Caucus’s PAC as Political Director because I’ve always believed in striking when the iron’s hot. Progressive messages find such popularity today not because they are poll tested and focus grouped to death, but rather because they are rooted in policies that are intended to help people in real, tangible ways. For a long time I’ve felt that progressives have all too often been pushed aside by the political class and as a result, have not afforded the opportunities to run robust campaigns. That will change. From recruitment to fundraising, to operations, the PAC is going to fire on all cylinders. Bottom line: we will win races and elect progressives to Congress in November 2020.”

Keith told us yesterday that he’s looking for strong candidates who fit their districts and who can win races. He believes strongly that Congress needs more diversity to best represent America– more women, more people of color, more young people, more people from the working class, more people with independent minds and string ideas. “Look how Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is inspiring people across the country,” he said. “She’s even showing members of Congress that there are new ways of reaching their constituents and bringing real representative democracy to life beyond the pages of civics books… She fits her district perfectly. And look at Joe Neguse in Boulder. He has a different style but he’s also a strong fighter and an inspiration figure, working to represent people in Colorado eager for a more progressive approach to governance.”

Keith told us that he wants to help candidates with good ideas and with passion put together strong campaigns that will help them win elections so they can put those ideas and that passionate work in Congress. Many candidates need assistance,” he said, “to staff and structure a campaign and to finance a congressional run without having to resort to taking money with strings attached.”


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