GOP's latest shutdown scheme "disgusting," Ellison tells Salon

Co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus slams Republicans -- and the media for enabling them

By Josh Eidelson

Published October 2, 2013 5:55PM (EDT)

Keith Ellison        (AP/Alex Brandon)
Keith Ellison (AP/Alex Brandon)

In an interview with Salon late Tuesday, congressman Keith Ellison, D-Minn., co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, slammed as “disgusting” the GOP’s plan of “passing these piecemeal things” protecting certain high-profile programs while allowing the government shutdown to continue.

“It reminds me of that time we voted … [that] people who fly every day, they get to skip the sequester, but kids on Headstart don’t,” Ellison said. “It’s wrong. So Republicans are right now calculating, you know, which shutdown elements are going to give bad press … they want to try to trick the press into thinking that this is a Democrat and Republican thing.”

Ellison suggested that the media so far haven’t done their job in covering “extortion” by Republicans in Congress. “One of the problems,” he told Salon, “is that some folks whose job it is to tell the public what’s going on, you know, they just sort of repeat what one side says and repeat what the other side says, and say, ‘Well, it’s both of them.’ Well, it’s not actually both.”

Such coverage, charged Ellison, “obscures the truth, that this thing is brought on by one side.” The congressman said he didn’t “hear anybody really talking about” the “massive concession” Obama made by working with “the Republican number” of $986 billion per year in spending, rather than “the proper number we should be working with,” $1,058 billion.

Ellison argued the media should make more clear that Republicans wouldn’t be placated unless Democrats “accede to their demand to delay, defund, destroy Obamacare.” He added, “There’s no way that’s going to happen.”

The CPC leader argued that Republicans were resorting to extreme tactics against the ACA because “they know this is their last chance. Because once people start getting on these exchanges, start buying affordable healthcare … they know they’ll never get this away from people.” Ellison suggested a historical precedent: “Even though Republicans in the 1960s were pretty vocal opponents of Medicare, now they act like they’re the guardians of it.”

Ellison told Salon that the ACA’s passage “makes it more likely,” to achieve a single-payer healthcare system in the future – something he and some colleagues would see as an improvement -- because the ACA will “lift people’s sights that things can be better than they are.” He suggested that the U.S. “will never have a single-payer system until Americans want one,” and that, as in Canada, the road to such a system would involve state or local models first. “If you have one state that goes single-payer,” said Ellison, “they are going to have a cost advantage on their neighboring states.”

Ellison emphasized that he saw passing Obamacare not as “incrementalism” toward single-payer, but as about “the difference between bad and not as bad.” Under the ACA, he told Salon, “we will not have people literally dying because they reached their annual or lifetime limits.”

“I know Republicans like to say, ‘Oh, well this is just a step toward socialized medicine,’” said Ellison. “Well, you know, I don’t think socialized medicine is a bad thing. Because I don’t think socialized firefighting is a bad thing. Socialized police is not a bad thing. Socialized public education is not a bad thing. So I’m not afraid of that word.”

Compared to the 2011 debt ceiling showdown, said Ellison, “I think the president is getting less patient with the games [Republicans] want to play, and I think that’s actually a good thing ... If you accede to their demands, they see that as weakness, and see there’s a chance to get more out of you.”

Josh Eidelson

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Aca Barack Obama Congress Dc Democrats Gop John Boehner Keith Ellison Media Criticism Obamacare Shutdown Washington