Activists Meet with US Rep. Johnson’s Staff on Health Care (UPDATE 1)


Additional reporting by Matthew Cardinale.


Photographs by Jonathan Springston

(APN) TUCKER — Activists from leftist groups like are pushing US Congress and the White House to follow through on comprehensive healthcare reform.

Despite passage of different versions of comprehensive health care reform in the US House and Senate, reconciliation of those bills was complicated by the recent loss of the Massachusetts US Senate seat formerly represented by the late US Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) to a Republican, US Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), in a Special Election last month.

Failure to succeed could result in lost support in November 2010’s upcoming Midterm Elections, according to a recent survey by


Photographs by Jonathan Springston.

A recent survey Moveon says represents 3.3 million of its 5 million members–taken between January 25 and 26, 2010–found that 71 percent would probably or definitely will not donate to Democratic candidates in 2010 if the party fails to pass comprehensive healthcare reform.

Moreover, 65 percent say they probably or definitely will not volunteer for Democratic candidates in the same situation.

In 2008, MoveOn members contributed $125 million and 20.8 million volunteer hours to President Obama and other Democratic candidates.

“Backing off completely because someone gets elected in Massachusetts is ridiculous,” Steve Toggerson, a lead organizer with MoveOn Gwinnett, told Atlanta Progressive News on Tuesday, February 02, 2010. “We don’t want people who were working for us to back down.”

Toggerson and about 20 other MoveOn Gwinnett members rallied outside the Tucker office of US Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), a strong proponent of healthcare reform and the public option, on Tuesday.

“If the Democrats don’t fight, they risk alienating voters and donors,” Toggerson said. “The Democrats cannot afford to lose this valuable segment of voters and volunteers.”

MoveOn chapters in over 100 cities also rallied and met with Congressional representatives or their staff.

Staffers in Johnson’s office warmly welcomed the MoveOn Gwinnett contingent and listened intently while members shared their personal healthcare stories.

Andy Phelan, Communications Director for Johnson, was one of the staffers who listened and asked questions of constituents.

However, aside from listening, Johnson’s staff did not offer any insight into the current status of health care legislation in the US House or Senate.

Dr. Kenneth O’Neal, a private practice physician who works out of the Barrow Regional Medical Center, said too many of his patients are embarrassed because they do not have health insurance.

“This compromises people’s integrity because they’re concerned about costs,” he said. “The time has clearly come for deliverance.”

O’Neal, speaking from a physician’s perspective, said doctors need more time for patients and less for paperwork.

“I didn’t go to school to deal with bureaucracy. I went to school to learn how to treat people,” he said.

US Rep. Johnson is facing tough opposition in the Democratic Primary this year from Dekalb Commissioners Lee May and Connie Stokes, and well as former Commissioner and US Senate candidate Vernon Jones.

Johnson also should have a strong appreciation for the impact of lack of health care on people’s lives, given the fact that he has been battling Hepatitis C over the last year. Unlike most US citizens, Members of Congress benefit from socialized medicine.

Recently, progressives in Congress like newcomers US Reps. Alan Grayson (D-FL), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), and Jared Polis (D-CO), circulated a letter to colleagues urging Congress to pass a compromise that includes a public option.

Democrats’ loss of a filibuster-proof majority in the US Senate leaves the Democratic Caucus with fewer options. One of those options is for the US House to pass the version already passed by the US Senate; that would prevent the need for the US Senate to vote again.

However, US House Democrats will likely only support the US Senate bill if a separate bill making funding changes is passed through the budget reconciliation process in the US Senate, which would only require a 51 vote majority.

While the public option could not survive a US Senate filibuster, even before the Massachusetts Special Election, there could be enough votes to support it through budget reconciliation.

The letter has garnered support of groups like the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America.

119 Democrats total in the US House have signed on, including US Reps. Johnson and John Lewis (D-GA). None of the other members of the Georgia delegation have signed on as of today.

Earlier today the organizations noted that they received over 90,000 dollars in donations from members to support progressive US Representatives. Grayson, Pingrie, and Polis will receive 20,000 dollars each.

Meanwhile, the healthcare debate has spilled into state legislatures across the country.

The Georgia Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, February 01, 2010, passed a trio of resolutions that seek to curb the effects of potential federal health care reform legislation.

SR 795 would make sure no one has to pay a fine for not having health insurance. SR 829 and SR 830 would direct the Attorney General to begin preparations to challenge the Constitutionality of federal reform.

The Virginia legislature has already passed bills that would make it illegal to mandate an individual to purchase health insurance.

There are at least 29 state legislatures using procedures that seek to limit, alter, or oppose selected state or federal measures, including single-payer provisions and insurance mandates, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

While reform is stalled in US Congress, at least for the moment, Toggerson noted financial realities and job losses continue to force more people out of their health insurance plans.

“There are still people dying every day, there are people going bankrupt everyday – that’s not going to change,” she said. “Whatever it takes to get healthcare [reform] passed, we’re going to do it.”


CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated that SR 794 passed the Senate Judiciary Cmte; however, a similar bill with almost identical language, SR 795, passed Cmte, while SR 794 was not referred to Cmte.

About the author:

Jonathan Springston is a Senior Staff Writer for The Atlanta Progressive News and is reachable at

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