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Rep. Jim McDermott Headshot

U.S. Auto Industry Wants Health Care in Canada

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My mission and my passion since the day I arrived in Congress has been for every American to have access to affordable health care coverage. It should be a right, not a privilege, as it is today.

Over 45 million Americans have no health care coverage at all, and millions more can’t afford to get sick because of inadequate or expensive coverage.

Democrats have made health care a top priority, but Republicans have not. I have repeatedly introduced HR 1200, universal health care legislation. My friend and colleague, John Dingell, also has made repeated attempts to address America’s health care crisis. Another good friend and colleague, John Conyers, recently introduced another proposal on health care. Dozens of House Democrats have signed on to these bills as co-sponsors.

Meanwhile, the Republican majority has talked, but not acted. Instead, Republicans use every opportunity to disparage government, and claim that solutions to everything always end in the word, “incorporated.” Republicans claim your government – they one they control- is incapable of addressing America’s needs. According to the Republicans’ tortured logic, America can wage war, but can’t cure the health care crisis.

Well, pick up any newspaper and the conclusion is inescapable. There are no more tomorrows. The health care crisis is a real and present danger: to the American people and the U.S. economy.

Especially hard hit is the manufacturing sector. Employees throughout the country are bracing for plant closings, or wage and benefit cuts. Companies like General Motors and Ford cite the cost of providing health care coverage as a major factor in their current financial crises.

So, quietly, behind the scenes here on Capitol Hill, the domestic auto industry has begun talking to lawmakers about a bailout. They are looking for tens of billions of dollars next year, and say it’s required to save the auto industry and thousands of family wage jobs.

Now, I’m a strong supporter of America’s labor movement, and a strong supporter of family wage jobs. And if a company treats its employees right, I strongly support them as well.
That might make me a candidate for supporting a bail out of the auto industry. It certainly makes me wonder why Republicans will not join Democrats to fight America’s enemy from within - a health care system that is destroying people, businesses and our way of life.

Republicans say let the private sector fix it. And, the special interests have said stay out of it because people like me want this nation to guarantee health care for every American. Lobbyists have made a living out of spinning the tale of Us versus Them. Well, I ask permission to enter into the record a letter that sets the record straight- and gives us a chance to finally confront America’s health care crisis.

The letter was sent separately to the Canadian government by Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Daimler Chrysler and the union representing auto workers in late 2002. The so-called big three U.S. car companies put their full support behind publicly funded health care -- in Canada. Here are some excerpts:

“Canada’s publicly funded health care system provides essential and affordable health care services for all Canadians, regardless of their income.

“For both employers and workers in the auto industry, it is vitally important that the publicly funded health care system be preserved and renewed…”

The letter sent by GM, Ford, and Daimler Chrysler, concludes: “In addition to reinforcing the quality and accessibility of health care for Canadians, these measures would also help to ensure the long-run success of Canada’s auto industry.”

That’s the US auto industry acting outside the US. It’s time to act inside the US. HR 1200 proposes universal health care, with guidelines by the federal government, decisions by local government, and health care by the private sector. My Democratic friends have other ideas. Let’s get them all on the table.

It’s time for the Republican majority to make health care a priority. It’s time for the auto industry to support a solution that is morally responsible and economically urgent: health care for every American- as a right, not a privilege.

We could accomplish this goal within 12 months if the White House and Republican majority would roll up their sleeves rather than roll out the rhetoric. I’m going to circulate the letter and call for Members to commit to facing this national crisis before the election next November. Let people judge us by our actions, not our words.