Democratic allies urge Stephanie Murphy to support budget bill for its health care provisions
Image via AP.

Stephanie Murphy
Pressure continues on moderate Murphy in the $3.5 trillion bill battle.

An alliance of Democratic-allied groups supporting retirees pressed U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy Wednesday to vote for the multitrillion dollar budget bill because of the health care provisions within in.

Advocates offered the proposed expansions for Medicare, Medicaid, and other health care programs as obvious reasons the Winter Park Democrat should support the Build Back Better Act — not leaning toward a no vote, as Murphy has said.

The pleas came from participants in a news media call organized by the groups Protect Our Care and Florida Alliance for Retired Americans, and Lower Drug Prices Now. The forum included leaders of the Florida Education Association-Retired and the Florida Council of Churches.

The Rev. Russell Meyer, a Lutheran minister and executive director of the Florida Council of Churches, brought up Murphy’s life story: someone who was rescued, as an infant, by the U.S. Navy when her family fled Vietnam during the boat lift of the 1970s. He asserted that someone with that sort of background should be eager to support the plan and could be powerful in supporting help for others.

“It wasn’t Big Pharma who fished her out of the sea. It was you and me,” Meyer said. “We need the voice of her experience to champion the Build Back Better plan of President Joe Biden. Her experience could carry this plan over the finish line. She could bring a tear to every eye in the House, just telling her story and how she got there.”

Wednesday’s news conference, carried on Zoom, is the latest effort in a battle from both sides of the political spectrum to sway Murphy, a critical moderate vote in the House of Representatives, on a cornerstone of Biden’s agenda.

The Build Back Better Act — currently calling for about $3.5 trillion in spending, though Biden recently has signaled he’s ready to reduce that to win over moderates in his own party — provides 10 years of funding for much of Biden’s plans on social, health care, and climate change initiatives.

In September, Murphy voted against the package in the House Ways and Means Committee. She then announced she would vote against the bill on the floor, unless it was changed. She said she had concerns about tax and spending provisions in the bill. She has been meeting with House and White House negotiators since.

Advocates on the right and on the left have targeted her ever since, with TV and social media ads in her 7th Congressional District, and with news conferences.

In Wednesday’s conference, Meyer made the case that the health care benefits in the plan are a moral obligation.

“Medicare and Medicaid are the two programs that have done more to relieve suffering in this country than any other part of our government. And they need to be expanded,” Meyer said.

Donesa Jackson, regional vice president of Central Florida for the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans, cited polling showing strong support for the health care benefits available in the plan, including expanding Medicare and Medicaid with dental, hearing, and vision benefits, allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices, and expanding home health care, among other benefits.

“Congresswoman Murphy, I hope that we can count on you to keep your promise to support President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better agenda,” Jackson said.

Janice Poirier, president of Florida Education Association-Retired, and a member of the National Education Association-Retired Executive Council, talked about how she finds herself in the “doughnut hole” of health care coverage, making it difficult for her to afford insulin for her diabetes. Her insulin costs $680 a month, she said, and she gets by only because her doctor gives her samples.

“I hope and pray Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy finds it in her to stand up and to do what the majority of Floridians want and need, and what makes sense, and what is right, especially for all of us who pay too much for the medication we need to survive” Poirier said.

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected].


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