Senator Max Baucus (D-Montana) drove up to the Kaiser Family Foundation in downtown Washington, D.C. this morning.
His initial idea – park on G Street in front of the office building – and walk in the front door to meet reporters gathered inside.
But activists from Single Payer Action were out front, waiting to question Baucus about why, over the past two weeks, he ordered thirteen of them arrested, handcuffed, and charged with “disruption of Congress.”
Upon seeing the activists gathered at the front door, Baucus drove down a back alley to a rear service entrance.
The activists followed him down the back alley.
Baucus pulled up to Kaiser’s service entrance.
A large metal door opened.
“I asked Baucus to roll down his window so I could ask him a question,” said Russell Mokhiber of Single Payer Action and the first of person arrested at the Senate Finance Committee on May 5. “But he shook his head no.”
Baucus drove into the service entrance and the security guards rolled down the metal door. (See video here.)
“I wanted to ask Senator Baucus whether it was pharmaceutical industry money or health insurance money that led him to prohibit any single payer advocate from testifying before the Senator Finance Committee which he chairs,” Mokhiber said.
According to a recent analysis by the group Consumer Watchdog, Senator Baucus, the leading architect of health reform in the Congress, has received more campaign contributions from the health insurance and pharmaceutical corporations than any other current Democratic member of the House or Senate.
According to the report, Senator Baucus received $183,750 from health insurance companies and $229,020 from drug companies in the last two election cycles.
During recent Senate Finance Committee hearings on health care reform, Baucus has refused to allow even one person to testify on behalf of a single payer health care system.
Forty-one people have testified in three days of health care hearings before the Senate Finance Committee in recent weeks (13 testified on April 21, 15 testified on May 5, and 13 testified on May 12).
Not one has been a advocate for a single payer, everybody in, nobody out, Medicare for all health insurance system.
According to recent polls, single payer is supported by a majority of Americans, doctors and health economists.
Baucus has been repeatedly asked over the past months to allow a single payer advocate to testify.
He has steadfastly refused.
Before the start of the May 5 hearing, a group of eight doctors, lawyers and other single advocates rose inside the Senate Finance Committee hearing room and one by one asked that Baucus open up the hearing to single payer advocates.
Baucus refused and had the eight arrested, handcuffed, and charged with “disruption of Congress.”
At the May 12 hearing, another five rose – this time nurses and doctors – and asked that Baucus hear from single payer advocates.
Baucus again refused and had the five arrested and charged with “disruption of Congress.”
The Baucus 13, as they call themselves, are scheduled to be arraigned starting next week.
“Senator Baucus is charging us with ‘disruption of Congress,’” Mokhiber said. “But who’s disrupting what? Here is the architect of health care reform in Congress. And he’s taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from the drug and health insurance corporations. And sixty Americans are dying every day from lack of health insurance. And single payer is the only proven way to save the hundreds of billions of dollars in administrative overhead and profits needed to insure everyone. And the majority of Americans, doctors and health economists support single payer. And Baucus doesn’t even allow one person out of 41 over three days of hearings on health care reform to testify on behalf of single payer? How corrupt is that?”
Kevin Zeese, another one of the Baucus 13 arrested on May 5, also wanted to question Baucus this morning.
Zeese is the executive director of ProsperityAgenda.US.
“Senator Baucus is putting the interests of the insurance industry ahead of the health care of Americans,” Zeese said. “He is living up to his reputation as the ‘Senator for K Street’ and should no longer be considered the senator for Montana.”