SEIU's Stern: Dems may not get labor's full support in fall midterms

A highly influential labor leader Friday suggested congressional Democrats might not the full support of unions in the upcoming midterm elections should they not pass a full healthcare reform package.

Service Employees International Union President Andy Stern chided House Democrats for contemplating scaled-back healthcare reform in favor of passing the Senate bill through the House. 

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“It’s gonna be incredibly difficult to stay focused on national politics if by the end of 2010 we have minimal health care and minimal changes on what’s important to our members,” he said in an interview with liberal blogger Greg Sargent.

Stern said the House Democrats' apparent new plan as "fear masquerading as a strategy."

Democrats have struggled to find a new way to pass healthcare reform since voters in Massachusetts picked Scott Brown (R) to be their next senator on Tuesday. Once Brown is seated, he will break the Democrats' 60-seat, filibuster-proof majority.

Stern and Senate Democrats favor passing the Senate bill through the House while the Senate would make fixes to the bill using budget reconciliation procedures. 

House Democratic leaders, though, have backed away from the plan because members of the rank-and-file have said they are unable to support it. Many appear to favor passing a number of popular reforms one-by-one.

The disagreement between House and Senate Democrats have left lawmakers at an impasse on the legislation.

Stern countered that “If something significant doesn’t happen in Congress, I hope the legislators appreciate that there are 37 governors races important to our members."

Before Brown's election, Stern and other labor leaders previously struck a deal with lawmakers to lessen the impact of the excise tax on high-cost healthcare plans contained in the Senate bill. 

Stern urged that Congress to pass the Senate bill with the excise tax fix.

“For the 31 million people who don’t have health care, for the 14,000 who lose it every day, for the 120 people who die every day, they elected this Congress to make change, not to set their sights lower when the going gets tough," he said.