About a dozen single payer activists, including three Gray Panthers, sat in at Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s SF office on November 3rd, demanding she honor her promises on single payer. Pelosi had promised that the House health reform bill, HR 3962, would include the Kucinich Amendment, allowing states the option for single payer and the Weiner Amendment, allowing a full House debate on substituting HR 676 (Conyers national single payer bill) for the entire House bill being proposed.
Our immediate demand was that staff reach Pelosi or her chief aide in Washington by phone, and that we talk with her. We said we would stay until this happened. Some three hours later, we were arrested for failing to follow directions to leave. The arrests were ordered by Pelosi aide Dan Bernal, whom we remember for calling the GP office several years ago demanding apology for our newsletter article attacking her votes for war funding. Bernal was too chicken to make the formal complaint from Pelosi’s office, so he went scurrying around trying to find someone else to make a complaint. All this time, we and the crowd outside were dialing Pelosi’s Washington office, so the switchboard was jammed and calls were rolling over onto a fax line.
Pelosi’s position as House Speaker is largely based on her ability to raise huge sums for Democratic electoral campaigns, so she stands at the intersection between political power and big money including big money from insurers, drug companies, and hospital chains. It is particularly galling that she uses that power to stall implementation of single payer in California, which twice passed the legislature of the state she is supposed to represent. This is what dictatorship looks like.