SEIU’s Stern Softens Tone And Outlines What He Wants From Final Bill

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Service Employees International Union president Andy Stern, who criticized the Senate health care bill last week, issued a statement last night calling the vote a step closer to “reforming” the system.

“While the process to get to sixty and the willingness of individual Senators to use the Senate’s rules to distort democracy for their own interest was disappointing – make no mistake about it: for working Americans this vote signals progress,” Stern said.

He also blasted Republicans for sitting on the sidelines “jeering, rooting for America to fail.”

Stern said there will be a chance to improve the bill after it passes the Senate and lawmakers look to a conference committee to merge that legislation with the House bill. He outlined on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday what he’d like to see changed during the conference process.Stern said he wants:

• more affordability provisions
• different subsidies for middle-income Americans
• improving at least on the tax on benefits, if not eliminating it
• more insurance regulation

Stern said he was “as disappointed as anyone” there isn’t going to be a public option in the bill, but said progressives want to see progress.

“We now have to fight for the changes we want in the conference committee, and then make a decision when it’s over,” he said.

He also said voters are still waiting to see the change Obama promised during the campaign.

His members, he said, “elected 60 Democratic senators because they promised them they would promote change.”

“And all we’ve done with that gift, I would say, is squander it. You know, we have not even been able to have a legitimate debate about some of these issues in the Senate,” he said. “This is crazy, that people can use their individual votes to distort democracy. Americans wanted them to have real debates, they promised them an opportunity, and they need to do something about it.”

He complained about Senate rules, saying “This is about one human being able to stand up and thwart change. I don’t think that’s what people voted for. I think they’re getting enormously frustrated in the lack of change.”

Though he added, “We are really proud that this president has kept this health care debate alive right now.”