“I’m the first to acknowledge the Affordable Care Act was not perfect when we passed it,” he said, recalling a time when Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress and the White House.
“If you’ll remember the House had passed its bill, the the Senate had passed its bill and we were supposed to go to conference to work out the differences between the two bills,” Langevin explained. “Unfortunately the Republicans wouldn’t even vote with us to go to conference to have those conversations so we had to make a very tough choice: do we take the Senate bill as is with no changes at all and basically kind of suck it up and get 65 to 70 percent of the stuff we wanted or do we let the whole thing die and maybe never take up healthcare reform again, at least not in my elected lifetime. We made the hard choice and we took up the Senate bill knowing that down the road things were going to happen.”
In his opinion, the reconciliation process would have helped the landmark healthcare reform bill. “It would have been a much better product. We could have fixed a lot of the problems then,” he said.
“I was very pleased that the Republican repeal and replace effort failed,” Langevin said. “I hope it opens up the conversation for Democrats and Republicans to come across the table and work together in a bipartisan way.”
But compromising with Republicans wasn’t what the South County residents in attendance wanted to talk about.
Langevin was asked about recruiting more progressive candidates. He was asked if Nancy Pelosi was the best choice to be speaker should the Democrats regain control of the House (“She’s going to have to make her case to the democratic caucus,” he said). He was asked about the tax code, the debt ceiling, funding for local environmental programs and twice about cannabis. He was praised by Moms Demand Action for his positions on gun violence and by disability activists for his support of the Americans With Disabilities Act.
But he was also, at times, castigated by reproductive rights activists for his soft support for the right to an abortion. “You said the ADA changed your life,” one woman said to him. “Roe v Wade changed the lives of women.”
Several people tried to pull him to the left on healthcare. Cutting to the chase, Jonathan Daly-LaBelle asked Langevin, “why are you against Medicare for All or healthcare for all?”
Langevin responded, “I want to see us truly achieve universal health care and there are a variety of ways we can get there. Single payer may be one of those ways down the road. I’d like to start with the public option.”
A doctor in the audience said the public option could cause more problems than it solves. “The problem with the public option is it gives healthcare companies another place to dump people who are not profitable to insure. The ACA is not going to get us to universal health care.”
Langevin said, “I’m not saying I’m opposed to that plan eventually. I’m supportive of the concept. Medicare for All might be the next step but we’re not there yet.”
But Langevin cautioned, “That would be a big wholesale change.”