President Obama hailed the Senate Finance Committee's vote in favor of health care reform on Tuesday, but as the pressure falls on Senate leadership to move forward with the reform process, liberal advocacy groups are insisting the moderate Finance Committee's bill is not good enough.
Labor unions are making good on their promise to withold support for any health care bill without a government insurance plan
, or "public option." The AFL-CIO, Communications Workers of America (CWA), the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), and about two dozen other unions are running a full page ad today blasting the Finance bill as "deeply flawed."
"A public health insurance plan option is essential to reform," reads the ad, which is running in the Washington Post, USA Today and newspapers catering to Capitol Hill. Besides calling for a public option, it insists health care reform must include a mandate for employers to contribute to the cost of care -- both proposals were left out of the Finance Committee bill.
The ad also attacks the bill for including a tax on insurers for costly health care plans. "A new tax on the middle class is unacceptable," it says.
Labor unions have put their alliance with Democrats to the test over the issue of health care. Last week, over 100 AFL-CIO leaders from 27 states traveled to Capitol Hill to lobby their congressmen. They delivered thousands of letters written by constituents in support of a bill that meets their demands.
CWA produced a report yesterday, compiled from data and analysis from the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation and the group Citizens for Tax Justice, showing that the tax on so-called "Cadillac" plans would impact costs for consumers, even though the tax technically falls on insurers.
A tax on generous health insurance plans would not only hit the wealthy, but union workers and other middle-class workers with good benefits, the CWA points out.
"It is a middle class tax," CWA President Larry Cohen said in a statement. "It hits 40 percent of all health plans and will lead to even more cost shifting to workers. Rather than make those employers who already pay toward their workers' health coverage pay more, let's make employers who don't pay, pay."After Health Care Win, Debate ContinuesHealth Care Progress Report: Oct. 13CBSNews.com Special Report: Health Care Reform
Other liberal groups are joining unions in calling for a public option and other elements that were included in the more liberal House legislation or the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee bill.
Richard Kirsch, national campaign manager for the reform group Health Care for America Now, said in a statement that the bill that reaches the Senate floor should reflect the HELP Committee bill -- not the Finance Committee bill.
"The Senate Finance Committee bill falls short on making insurance affordable to America's families, gives employers a 'free ride,' and does not create meaningful competition in the insurance market with a strong national public health insurance option," he said. "We're counting on Senators to put their constituents ahead of the big insurers and vote for real reform."
Liberal interests are likely to find a few allies in the Senate, including Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.).
"Let me be crystal clear: This yes vote is not an endorsement of this bill as it stands today," Rockefeller said Tuesday, Politico reports
. "My vote is a pledge to continue on the Senate floor, and in conference, the fight for policies that work and represent the real needs of West Virginia families."
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also reportedly said the bill was "extremely weak."