The “thumping” taken by the Republican Congress on election day was notjust a rejection of K Street corruption and the catastrophe in Iraq. Itwas a call to action on issues that are more immediately relevant topeople’s lives. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will begin to answer thatcall by pushing a “100 Hours” agenda–including common-sense legislationto increase the minimum wage, cut interest on student loans and open theway for Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices.
That’s a good beginning, but it’s only a down payment on a broaderagenda. As Bill Moyers writes in this issue, progressives now have theopportunity to develop a new vision that returns power to the Americanpeople for the first time in generations. Moyers is right that to-dolists don’t add up to a vision. But Democrats must show they are seriousby passing bold measures that define a new “people’s agenda.” With thatin mind, here are ten existing pieces of legislation thatdeserve to be passed by our new Congress. Some of these billsare eminently passable, a few are related to the “100 Hours” agenda andothers can be seen as long-term goals. But all would help return ournation to the path to a more perfect union (note: Bill numbers maychange in the new Congress).
1. Healthcare for All
More than 47 million Americans are now living without health coverage.Representative John Conyers’s United States National HealthInsurance Act (HR 676) would create a single-payer healthcare system byexpanding Medicare to every resident. All necessary medical carewould be covered–from prescription drugs to hospital services tolong-term care. There would be no deductibles or co-payments. Fundingwould come from sources including savings from negotiated bulkprocurement of medications; a tax on the top 5 percent of incomeearners; and a phased-in payroll tax that is lower than whatemployers currently pay for less comprehensive employee healthcoverage. With seventy-eight Congressional co-sponsors, and theendorsement of more than 200 labor organizations as well as healthcaregroups, there is muscle and momentum behind this bill. To get involved,check out www.Healthcare-Now.org.
2. Counting Every Vote
Representative Rush Holt has introduced the Voter Confidence andIncreased Accessibility Act (HR 550) requiring all voting systems toprovide a voter-verified paper trail to serve as the official ballot forrecounts and audits. It would also insure accessibility for voters withdisabilities. The bill, which was introduced in February 2005 andwhich currently has 222 bipartisan co-sponsors, was tied up incommittee by the Republican Congress. Senators Hillary Clintonand Barbara Boxer and Representative Stephanie Tubbs Jonesintroduced the Count Every Vote Act (S 450 and HR 939), which also callsfor a voter-verified paper trail and would improve access for languageminority voters, illiterate voters and voters with disabilities.Co-sponsors of that legislation include Senators John Kerry, FrankLautenberg, Patrick Leahy and Barbara Mikulski, and seventy-nineHouse members.