U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth is one of the more liberal members of Congress, but the Kentucky Democrat is facing criticism from the left for not embracing one of many Medicare-for-all measures this year.
The Louisville chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America is openly considering support for a primary challenge in 2020 if Yarmuth doesn’t embrace one of three separate bills floating through his committee.
“I would say to any potential Democratic primary voter that my record is what my record is, and I’m proud to defend it,” Yarmuth told the Courier Journal.
Yarmuth is chairman of the powerful House Budget Committee, where at least four members have introduced three measures creating some sort of single-payer health care system. He has pledged to hold hearings on what such an overhaul would cost, but the Bluegrass State’s lone Democrat in Washington is being cautious.
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“I’m going to be meeting with all the sponsors … and try to figure out what the best way to go forward is, but I clearly can’t or don’t think it would be fair to officially favor one over the other,” Yarmuth told the Courier Journal last week.
Louisville Democratic Socialists, however, aren’t satisfied with that explanation. In a Feb. 27 tweet, the group called Yarmuth out for failing to co-sponsor any of the proposals.
“We think (Rep. Yarmuth) should ask Joe Crowley what happens to representatives that break promises and oppose Medicare for All,” DSA of Louisville tweeted. “Maybe (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) can tell you where to find him nowadays.”
The group is alluding to an upset by 29-year-old U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — called “AOC” by supporters and critics — who defeated Crowley, a longtime New York incumbent, last year in a race that shook the Democratic Party’s establishment.
Ocasio-Cortez is among a new crop of Democrats who are pushing an aggressive, progressive agenda on the environment, taxes and health care.
“If there is a challenger running against him like an AOC who does support Medicare for all and he is not, we would have to take a very strong look at that challenger,” said Nick Conder, a member of Democratic Socialists of America. “If he starts backtracking on positions like that, and it’s not just us, a lot of groups are going to have to rethink supporting Yarmuth because it’s a red line for a lot of progressive groups.”
Conder said his group hopes Yarmuth, who co-sponsored similar Medicare-for-all proposals in the past, will eventually join his colleagues in Washington. But, he said, if the congressman doesn’t, they could support someone like state Rep. Attica Scott, D-Louisville, as a contender in 2020.