National Press Club

Conyers Bemoans Lack of Attention for Single-payer Health Insurance

July 27, 2009 | By Don Knight |

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With 17 minutes remaining in a spirited question-and-answer session, Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., gathered his papers from the podium, offered an apology to his Luncheon audience on July 24 and made a hasty exit. Voting was underway on a transportation appropriations bill in the House.

But not before the second longest-serving House member (22 terms) and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee could comment on critical issues dominating debate on Capitol Hill, such as single-payer universal health insuranace.

That proposal, he said “is the most popular health-care bill in the Congress and now has 85 co-sponsors ... yet there’s this effort to lock it in the drawer and talk about it as little as possible.”

“The majority of Americans want a single-payer (health plan)," he said, “and I’ve got two polls to back me up. More doctors support our plan than any other plan. Nurses support it. The people support it. The unions support it. Fifty million people don’t even have a plan. They don’t have any insurance at all.”

As for the “political situation we find ourselves in: It’s funny. Here’s an old American, respected political party," he said of the Republican Party, "self-destructing right in front of our eyes. Every day they call 18 or two dozen roll call votes on everything they can think of, motions to adjourn all over the place. The minority leader made them read the whole bill, 55 pages for two or three hours. What will they do today that will make you either laugh or cry? It goes on an on.”

A committee aide at the head table handed up a note. There are votes on the floor noted Conyers. “I must go.” Club President Donna Leinwand: “Can we just take a couple more questions?”

Conyers: “No. Forgive me for doing this. Maybe I’ll come again and have more time”