There is no excuse for federal politicians having health care coverage when many of the people they represent do not, Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards told union Carpenters in Las Vegas Saturday.
Edwards said if universal health care coverage was not passed by Congress he would tell lawmakers: “I’ll do everything in my power to take your health care away from you.”
Edwards’ remarks, made at a town hall meeting with the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, drew a roaring standing ovation from 200 on hand at the Carpenters International Trainer Center near McCarran International Airport.
A former U.S. senator from North Carolina, Edwards was the vice presidential nominee on the 2004 Democratic ticket with John Kerry. The Carpenters union, with more than 500,000 members, has endorsed Edwards at the national level and is one of Nevada’s most politically active labor groups.
Addressing the media after the event, Edwards explained that if Congress did not act on health care, he would submit legislation that ended health care coverage for all members of Congress. If members of Congress did not pass legislation ending their health care coverage, it would put them in an awkward situation, appearing to be concerned about themselves but not their constituents, he said.
Union member Harold Schwartz appreciated Edwards’ populist position.
“I believe he knows how to get things done,” Schwartz said. “You’ve got to have someone in that position who knows how to play hardball.”
Nearly 50 million Americans do not have health insurance.
Edwards told union members his health insurance plan could cost as much as $120 billion. It would be paid for, he said, by repealing tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.
He assured union members that he believed the middle class can only grow stronger through the growth of unions.
Too often in the past, trade agreements have caused the middle class to struggle, he said.
Instead of crafting trade deals that create jobs, administrations have been working out deals that are good for the profits of big multinational corporations — entities that often move jobs offshore, he said.
“I think we’ve been asking the wrong questions about these proposed trade deals,” he said.
Edwards described the North American Free Trade Agreement, which lowered economic barriers between the United States, Mexico and Canada, as a blow to the middle class.
It was passed by President Clinton, husband of Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., who is leading in the polls for the Democratic nomination.
“Do you want to trade a crowd of corporate Republicans that are running this country now for a crowd of corporate Democrats?” Edwards asked.
Though Edwards does not have as large an organization in Nevada as either Clinton or Sen. Barack Obama, he is counting on help from the Carpenters union to drive turnout for Nevada’s Jan. 19 caucuses.