The Progressive Caucus: In solidarity we rise

Brian McLain of Ankeny was recently elected chair of the Iowa Democratic Party’s Progressive Caucus. -promoted by Laura Belin

As a leftist, finding a place to have your voice heard within the Democratic establishment has sometimes been challenging. The Iowa Democratic Party’s Progressive Caucus was created out of that need in 2016, and it has become my home in the party.

I have been involved and active in the caucus since its inception, and was recently honored to be elected to chair the group for the 2020-2022 term. I can say with little embellishment that my decision to run for Progressive Caucus chair was not taken lightly.

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How the election affected Braley's Populist Caucus

Now that Representative Bruce Braley has survived a Republican landslide despite a bucketload of money thrown at him, I thought I’d check to see how others in his House Populist Caucus fared on Tuesday.

Short story: the Populist Caucus lost five members. As a group, they fared better than the Blue Dogs or New Democrats, but not as well as the Progressive Caucus. The details are below.

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What a real public option would look like

BruceMcF breaks it down for you:

So: (1) Public Choice

“No Taxation without Representation”. Every single person facing an individual mandate must be provided with the choice of a publicly administered plan. Otherwise the government is forcing the citizen to pay without the elected representatives of the citizen controlling the spending.

You want to put a trigger on the public option. Fine, except the exact same trigger applies to the individual mandate.

You want to restrict access to the public option to some smaller group? Fine, except the same restriction applies to the individual mandate.

The system is not politically legitimate if it requires payment to for-profit commercial corporations.

(2) Robust

It cannot be lumbered down with any restrictions not faced by private insurers.

State by state public options? Really? You are really prepared to restrict the corporations to firms with no commercial activity across state lines? If they are free standing state by state public options, it has to be state by state for profit corporations. Oh, not allowing [United Healthcare] into the exchanges defeats the purpose of lining private pockets at the public expense? Yeah, kind of thought so.

BruceMcF has long been one of my favorite transportation bloggers and has written great stuff on health care reform too, including Axelrod: Government by Consent of the Corporation. His home blog is Burning the Midnight Oil, but he frequently cross-posts his work at Progressive Blue, Daily Kos, My Left Wing, Docudharma, and the Hillbilly Report.

Speaking of real and fake public options, Timothy Noah explains “the sorry history” of triggers enacted by Congress, and slinkerwink has suggestions and talking points to use when contacting House Progressives about health care reform. I still think it’s worth urging Populist Caucus members as well as Progressives to insist on a real, not fake or triggered, public option in the final health care bill.

Bruce Braley (IA-01) leads the Populist Caucus, and Dave Loebsack (IA-02) and Leonard Boswell (IA-03) both belong to the caucus. All of them have advocated for the public option, but to my knowledge none has pledge to vote down any bill that lacks a public option.

For those interested in the nitty gritty of legislative wrangling, David Waldman ponders what might happen if the Senate Finance Committee members can’t agree and consequently fail to report out a health care bill.

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Populist Caucus, allies speak out for fair trade

Members of Bruce Braley’s Populist Caucus were among 55 House members who took a stand against the Panama Free Trade Agreement today in an open letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

After the jump I’ve posted the full text of the letter, along with the list of those who signed. Here is an excerpt:

We believe trade agreements must meet basic standards protecting labor rights, environmental standards, food safety regulations, financial regulations, and taxation transparency. We are disturbed by Panama’s tax haven status and the use of this tax haven by U.S. financial institutions like AIG and Citibank. The U.S. is currently contemplating stricter financial regulations to protect our economy, but the Panama FTA will likely weaken any such effort. We believe the Panama FTA should be renegotiated in order to address these outstanding issues.

President Obama campaigned effectively on changing the trade model and his message resonated with the American people.  We believe the Panama FTA falls far short of that commitment and it is not in the best interests of the American worker, our economy, or our country.  We share your commitment to fighting for working families and believe you can be an effective advocate for our cause.

The House members who signed the letter mostly belong to the Populist Caucus, House Trade Working Group, and/or the Progressive Caucus. I noticed that Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02) joined Braley (IA-01) among the 17 Populist Caucus members who signed. Representative Leonard Boswell (IA-03) was among six Populist Caucus members who did not sign. One Republican signed: Walter Jones (NC-03).

“Defending American competitiveness by fighting for fair trade principles” is one of the six key priorities for the Populist Caucus.

Later today, a U.S. Trade Representative announced that the Panama agreement “won’t be submitted to Congress for approval until President Barack Obama offers a new ‘framework’ for trade.” At Open left, David Sirota interpreted that announcement as a victory (albeit possibly only temporary) for the Populist Caucus, its allies and the AFL-CIO, which had already come out against the Panama agreement.

We’ll see whether the White House is willing to deviate significantly from the NAFTA model in this agreement. Whatever the final outcome, I am glad to see a large House contingent taking a stand for fair trade.

I still hope the Populist Caucus will get more involved in the health care debate.

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Time for Braley's Populist Caucus to speak up on health care

Congress is getting to work on the details of health care reform, and a major battleground will be whether to include a strong public health insurance option for all Americans.

Republicans like Senator Chuck Grassley are revving up their scare tactics about “government-run” health care. Coalitions of Democrats who back a public option are also taking shape in the House and the Senate.

The new Populist Caucus led by Congressman Bruce Braley (IA-01) has yet to weigh in on the specifics of health care reform. That needs to change soon if Braley is serious about turning this caucus into a voice for the middle class in the House.

More thoughts on this subject are after the jump.

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Harkin and Loebsack support public option in health care reform

Congress will begin making important decisions on health care policy very soon. The Senate Finance Committee began drafting a health care bill a few days ago.

I was glad to see two Iowans among the representatives and senators who urged colleagues this week to include a strong public option in any health care reform plan.

After the jump I have more on where Congressman Dave Loebsack and Senator Tom Harkin stand on health care, as well as the benefits of creating a public health insurance option.

UPDATE: Thanks to Populista for reminding me that all Iowa Democrats in Congress (Bruce Braley, Dave Loebsack, Leonard Boswell and Tom Harkin) have signed on to support Health Care for America Now’s core principles for health care reform.

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