GOP senator’s attempt to troll single-payer supporters falls flat on its face

Health advocates say they aren’t taking the bait.

CREDIT: Screenshot/CSPAN
CREDIT: Screenshot/CSPAN

An amendment that sought to create a single-payer health system failed in the Senate on Thursday, after it was introduced by a Republican who didn’t vote for it himself. The Senate rejected it with 57 nays and 43 Senators who simply responded present.

Senate Republicans’ approach to repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has thus far been rushed, secretive and destructive. Amid widespread public confusion regarding the fate of the ACA, the health care debate process is becoming more tactically deceitful each passing day. Republicans will continue to introduce amendments during debate that look to undercut the ACA or their Democrat colleagues on Thursday, instead of introducing the latest version of their ACA-repeal bill.

Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) introduced the single-payer amendment during debate Thursday afternoon. Under a single-payer system or “Medicare for all,” U.S. residents would be covered for all medically necessary services. But Daines does not believe in a single-payer movement, and he made it clear that he would not vote for the amendment he introduced before the vote took place.

Instead, the amendment was meant to expose ideological differences among the Democratic party and its supporters — and distract from efforts to stop the repeal of Obamacare.

According to Vox’s Jeff Stein, Democrats had decided they won’t take the bait and progressives, including single-payer champion Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT), said they would not vote in favor of the amendment.

Protesters hold signs at a rally in Burlington, VT. Credit: AP Photo/Toby Talbot
Protesters hold signs at a rally in Burlington, VT. Credit: AP Photo/Toby Talbot

Efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act have become a political game. It’s come at the expense of Obamacare and Medicaid enrollees, and now champions of universal health care.

One grassroots organization that has been loudly advocating for universal health care is encouraging a “no” vote on Daines’ single-payer amendment. Vermont-based Rights and Democracy told ThinkProgress that the Republicans’ tactic won’t work.

“Of course we are going to support Bernie’s stance because we are not going to lower our sights just because something convenient has been offered,” said Rights and Democracy organizer Emma Schoenberg.

Schoenberg and her organization have been busing back-and-forth from Montpelier, Vermont to Washington, D.C. to protest the Republicans’ ACA repeal effort on Capitol Hill. She was one of 33 activists arrested Tuesday for staging a protest in the Senate gallery as the Senate voted on the motion to proceed. While in D.C., the organization has been simultaneously fighting against the Republican health care bill and advocating for single-payer.

“From an organizing perspective, what we want to be doing is fighting for something instead of struggling against something we already have,” said Schoenberg.

A House aide for a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus told ThinkProgress that he believes progressives should focus on repeal efforts this week. The aide said he wouldn’t tell advocates to stop pushing for universal health care, but right now, progressives need to prioritize.

“We will keep working on [single-payer] for as long as it takes,” said Schoenberg. “Whether on the state level or federal level… even if it means waiting on the federal because of the situation we are in.”

In the meantime, Rights and Democracy will help organize two rallies in Vermont, continuing resistance efforts against Republican health care bill. Theirs will be one of many “Our Lives are on the Line” rallies held on Saturday.

This piece was updated by Adrienne Mahsa Varkiani at 3:07 p.m. with news that the amendment failed in the Senate.