Collapse of single-payer legislation amplifies differences in California Democratic Party; Are they really Democrats?




On Monday, legislation establishing a single-payer healthcare system in California dubbed Cal Care suffered yet another blow when a vote in the California Assembly was canceled by the bill's sponsor. That vote on Assembly Bill 1400 never was put on the floor after Assemblymember Ash Kalra (D - San Jose) determined it was unlikely to advance to the California Senate.

With the canceled vote, the deadline to advance the legislation was missed killing any chance for consideration during this legislative session. A single-payer system has long been a top priority for progressive Democrats and advocacy groups, most notably the California Nurses Association. 

Not surprisingly, after the vote was pulled, Kalra was widely criticized, especially by the CNA. As is the norm, commentary immediately made its way to social media, especially Twitter. 

Among many progressives voicing their dismay was Amar Shergill, chair of the California Democratic Progressive Caucus. While Shergill posted a statement that criticized Kalra, he spread the critique to the factions within the California Democratic Party, including chairperson Rusty Hicks.  
Shergill and other progressives engaged in several exchanges on Twitter discussing AB1400. Even though the Democratic Party has majorities in the Assembly, the Senate, and controls every statewide constitutional office, their discontent was with fellow party members they characterized as beholden to interests like health care insurers. 

To that end, Shergill posted this after a Zoom conference Kalra held a Zoom meeting explaining his rationale for pulling the vote. 
  
While Democratic Assemblymembers stayed out of the fight, other prominent non-elected Democrats jumped into the conversation. Without commenting on the single-payer proposal, the Democratic insider Steve Mavglio said the following. 

Maviglio also posted the following entry squarely aimed at Shergill. 


There were more exchanges along these lines with an occasional gleeful Republican comment. While progressives and groups like the CNA advocated for a single-payer healthcare system as a human right, the mainline Democrats exemplified by Maviglio would not say why they did not support the legislation - election-year politics perhaps - and never addressed the influence of multi-million-dollar donations made by business interest groups and healthcare insurers opposed to AB1400. 

While Republicans were left out of the conversation because of their diminished power in California, it seems one branch of the state's Democratic party is occupied by elected officials in tune with more traditional, mainline, read never-Trump, Republicans. These Democratic officer holders might support things like women's reproductive rights but bristle at single-payer healthcare that would upset their corporate donors. 

Not coincidentally, a story published in today's Sacramento Bee (registration required) reported that Assemblymember Kevin McCarty (D - Sacramento), considered a progressive, could be challenged by Sacramento lobbyist Josh Pane who has expressed disgust with conditions in Sacramento based partly on the homeless population. Not surprisingly, the Bee reports that Pane was a Republican who became a no party preference before hooking up as a Democrat. 

Reached yesterday, Shergill asserted AB1400 deserved a vote but said its failure was based on the influence of special interests. 

"It failed because medical corporations flooded Democratic Party and Democratic Assemblymember campaign accounts with money so that they uphold a status quo which causes massive human suffering for no good reason," Shergill said.   

 
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