Progressive Democrats are pushing for a vote on a controversial healthcare bill after the party takes control of the House early next year.
But the left’s push for “Medicare for all” legislation would likely divide Democrats and pose a headache for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who is poised to become Speaker in the next Congress.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), who is co-chair of the Medicare for All Caucus in the House, told supporters on an organizing call Tuesday night that simply expressing support for the idea is not enough.
“When we have that majority, we need to make sure that we put it to use,” she said.
Yet, many other House Democrats, including members of the leadership, are not on board with the idea of government-run universal health insurance.
Supporters say they are going to push for a vote and organize grass-roots efforts to pressure Democratic holdouts to sign on to the legislation. However, any floor vote would probably fail, with all Republicans and some Democrats rejecting the measure.
Republicans used Medicare for all—otherwise known as single-payer—as a leading area of attack on Democrats during the 2018 midterm elections. They touted a recent cost estimate by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, which put the bill’s price tag at $32 trillion over 10 years.
Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), the co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, acknowledged that centrist members did not want a vote on Medicare for all, but countered, “There’s going to be votes that we need to take.”
“Regardless of the political ideology, everybody understands the expectations that we’re under, and you have to satisfy a lot of expectations,” Grijalva said. “Medicare for all is one of them.”
Rep. Ron Kind (WI), a centrist Democrat, countered that he did not want a vote on Medicare for all, pointing to what is realistic given that a Republican-controlled Senate would certainly never pass such a bill.
“Even Leader Pelosi and our leadership isn’t pushing that right now, so I think we need to be pragmatic in our legislative ambitions around here with a divided Congress and with Trump down at the White House,” Kind said.
A spokesman for Pelosi did not respond when asked if the California Democrat is open to a vote on Medicare for all.
Pelosi said in June that ideas like Medicare for all would “have to be evaluated in terms of the access that they give, the affordability of it and how we would pay for it.”