May 1, 2009 Volume 110 Number 9

Wu doubtful Congress will pass single-payer health reform plan

Oregon Congressman David Wu doesn’t foresee a single-payer health care system in the United States.

The Obama Administration has put reforming the nation’s health care system front and center in its strategy to revive the struggling economy. But Wu, a Democrat representing the First District, told nearly 60 union leaders at a breakfast meeting April 15 sponsored by the Northwest Oregon Labor Council that Obama is likely to retain the current employer-based system.

Wu said 150 million to 190 million Americans are currently covered under an employer-based system. “Most people like it and they want to keep it,” he said. “To doom any type of reform is to say you are taking that away.”

A majority of unions support a single-payer health care plan as proposed by U.S. Rep. John Conyers of Michigan. HR 676 would institute a single-payer health care system by expanding and making improvements to Medicare.

As for labor’s top legislation — the Employee Free Choice Act — Wu said there is still work to be done to get it through the Senate. Until then, it won’t come up for a vote in the House, where it has strong majority support.

Wu is an original co-sponsor of the Employee Free Choice Act.

On trade, the six-term congressman said it’s time to “re-think what we do” in regard to trade treaties.

“Working folks have suffered a lot” under free trade agreements that have been signed over the last 10 to 15 years, he said. “Shareholders and investors are the winners.”

Wu supports an amendment to the TRADE Act, a bill that was introduced last year by U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud of Maine. HR 6180 did not come up for a vote in the 110th Congress, and has yet to be reintroduced this year.

Wu has been working with Michaud to incorporate new language into the bill before submitting it. Overall, the TRADE Act would require the Government Accountability Office to review all existing U.S. trade pacts, and based on the review, would allow the renegotiation of those deals. The bill would also set the terms for future trade agreements, including labor, environmental, and human rights standards.

During a question and answer period, Wu reiterated his opposition to a labor-backed liquefied natural gas plant near Astoria unless the community supports it and until it is proven to be safe.

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