Monday, March 24, 2014

Braley Talks Health Care in Iowa City

Obamacare dominated a Saturday morning house party for Bruce Braley in Iowa City.

“Democrats are not going to win in 2014 by trying to hide from the Affordable Caree Act," Braley told the crowd of 75 or so at the home of Johnson County Dems chair Gerene Denning. "I am proud of the work I did to pass the Affordable Care Act."

“Without the affordable care act people would not have the opportunities to change jobs without worrying about preexisting conditions.  At that time 47 million people had no health care and we needed to do something about it. My friends who voted for it and lost have no regrets."

“I need you to be my voice in pushing back against false information,” Braley told the crowd, a solid blue group of Democratic activists. “Democrats care so deeply about policy we sometimes get bogged down in details and forget to have people tell their stories in a powerful and short way.”

When a questioner asked about single payer, Braley said he had favored a strong public option that was stripped out of the final bill, but “you have to crawl before you walk.”

Talk also turned to the horse race.  “I’ve already had over a million spent against me by the Koch brothers," Braley said. "It is relentless and we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg.”

“We will not have 64 Obama field offices this year" like Democrats did in 2012.  Braley said. I will raise at least $2 million in addition to my own campaign to have the strongest field operation in Iowa.”

Looking at other races, Braley was optimistic about Jack Hatch, his partner at the top of the Democratic ticket. “Only 44% feel Terry Branstad deserves another term, and that is a great opportunity.” A strong challenge to Branstad is important because “If Branstad sees he has an easy race you KNOW he’ll be meddling in every other race."

Also noted: Steve King's opponent: “People don’t know how powerful a candidate Jim Mowrer is.”

I forgot the beret for the interview but should have worn it as I was having a bad no-hair day.

Is this typical where health care pretty much dominates?

Not necessarily because it depends on where you are and what's on people's minds. So obviously, when I was in Council Bluffs I talked to people about veterans issues at that diner that I visited, I talked to retired teachers about education issues, I talked to seniors who were there about protecting and preserving social security and medicare. There was a farmer sitting there, we talked about the farm bill and renewable fuels. So It just depends on what's on people's minds. But here in Iowa City, which is kind of the epicenter of state health care.

A lot of doctors here today...

Doctors, hospital administrators, and I think because people are very focused on the ongoing conversation here in Iowa City.

Why do you think the Affordable Care Act is a hard sell right now?

Because it was a very important piece of legislation and it has a lot of different components to it because health care is a $3 trillion business in the united states. And a lot of different things were included in the act to try to improve the delivery of health care and its efficiency by getting better outcomes. So it's taken a while for it to all roll out and it's something that people are even today still trying to figure out how it impacts their lives.

Part of what I'm thinking is the really really popular things like staying on your folks' till you're 26, preexisting conditions, kicked in faster. Now we're at the stage where people are having to sign up and it's confusing and of course there was the roll-out problem with the website.

Yeah, and that was a terrible problem because so many of us who worked so hard on the Affordable Care Act wanted that whole system to unfold the way it was intended to so people would have easy access to find out what type of coverage they were eligible for, what type of assistance they might be eligible for, and to get it done in a complete and succinct manner. And when people started to encounter problems, many of us who were in Congress were very upset about the problems and worked hard to try to get them fixed. And now anybody who wants to enrol is having a much easier time getting on finding out what's available and I think we're seeing a very significant increase here at the end of march in the number of people that are actually signing up.

Let's say you're with a more independent crowd and you're hearing about jobs and the economy, what kind of stuff are people thinking about?

Well the thing that I keep talking about is the minimum wage and the need to restore it. the reason for that is the minimum wage has lost 30% of its purchasing power since the last time it was increased. So restoring it means giving it back the same level of purchasing power and we know just from labor statistics that if we do that, according to the bill Senator Harkin and I have sponsored that 300,000 Iowans would see an increase in their pay. And that money then circulates in their communities because they have more to spend. And it also impacts other wages because if minimum wage is more reflective of what it takes to stay above the poverty level...

... it drives the other wages up.

... it drives the other wages up because people realize that you can't live below the poverty level working a minimum wage job.

We Democrats have just got a chronic problem in getting our folks excited about a midterm election. When the presidency's on the ballot, they're lined up for hours, but in a midterm we don't perform as well and Republicans are still able to get their people out. What can we do about that and what can you do about that as the name on the top of the ballot?

 Well, one of the things we have to do is inspire Democratic voters to want to come out and let them know that there are important reasons why their vote matters just as much in a midterm election as it does during a presidential election. Obviously a presidential race gets a lot of national publicity so it's easier to get people focused on going out to vote. but the reality is the last two years of President Obama's legacy will be defined by what we do on November 4th, in Iowa and other states around the country. So we're focusing on where we sometimes see a drop off in turnout, one of those places is among younger voters. So we're working very hard to establish strong support on college campuses. We know that some of those students are going to graduate in the spring and won't be coming back, so we're looking for leaders who will be coming back in the fall who can hit the ground running, help us make students aware of the choices in this election and how it's going to impact their futures. Same thing with high school voters who are going to be eligible to vote for the first time and want to vote now rather than waiting to vote in 2016 in the presidential election. We also know that there are a number of voters who traditionally don't show up as often in a midterm election, so we're trying to find ways to reach out to them. Younger voters don't watch the local nightly news near as much as our generation did, so we are doing a lot more on line to try to connect with them, things like Netflix, Hulu, other programming that they watch frequently so that we can try to find a way to connect with them.

I hear Facebook isn't cool anymore.

It changes so fast.

I'm not seeing your race showing up on the national top of the list races. It's almost as if they're saying "aww, Braley's gonna be OK" but you don't sound like you're taking anything for granted.

I see a lot of things that say the opposite. I see a lot of articles that say Iowa is definitely in play. When you look at what's happening, the fact that Mark Udall in Colorado now has a strong challenger, the fact that Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire will probably be running against a former incumbent senator, Scott Brown... All of those things will divert resources to help incumbent members of the Senate and that's why I'm working so hard to get around the state and build a strong ground game because that's what it's going to take to register voters, to get them to vote and for me to be successful in the Senate race.

That's always how Iowa Democrats do it.

That's how we do it.

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