While we all have been focusing on Speaker Nancy Pelosi returning to power, I want to give a shout out to Congressman John Yarmuth who will be chair of the House Budget Committee. I know that many of us in the progressive movement are scared of Democrats handcuffing themselves with PAYGO. It is a legitimate fear, but I believe that Yarmuth will push for a progressive agenda as chairman.
Why do I say that? Well, he is my congressman, and I have met him on several occasions. And I want to share a story I posted once before on Daily Kos with regards to Yarmuth’s priorities. It occured in 2010 when Yarmuth was addressing the Louisville Metro Democratic Club.
Bear with me.
What was unusual about Yarmuth’s comments to the activists in the room was his honesty and disappointment with President Obama on his handling of the economy and his plans on healthcare reform. Let’s start with healthcare. Yarmuth is a proponent of single payer and plans on holding a hearing on Medicare for All. And at that time, Yarmuth was highly critical of President Obama’s abandonment of Medicare for all and his moving toward dropping the public option in the ACA.
Given the support for President Obama among the Democratic base, I found Yarmuth’s take refreshing. Want to start a fight among Democrats? Be the least bit critical of President Obama.
But Yarmuth wasn’t finished. He matter of factly stated that the Stimulus Package was insufficient and there were no plans for further fiscal stimulus. Yarmuth added that many in the Obama Administration embraced Reaganomics.
As a member of the club, I was specifically told NOT to ask questions during Congressman Yarmuth’s speech. IF there was time at the end, sure the audience could ask a question or two. But Congressman Yarmuth was on a tight schedule.
However, I just could not let that comment go. I blurted out rather loudly, “Congressman Yarmuth! I’m sorry to interrupt you Sir, but could you clarify what you just said about no other fiscal stimulus plans from the Obama Administration?” Yarmuth took my outburst in stride, and he said that the Obama Adminstration believes that they have done what they needed to on the economy. Wall Street was doing well, and there was no further need for fiscal stimulus. Several members of the Obama Administration believed like Reagan if Wall Street was doing well that the economy was fine.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I was floored.
Yarmuth didn’t mince any words, and he just confirmed what many progressive critics of President Obama had been arguing on the economy and healthcare. But guess what? There was literally no mention of his comments in any of the media outlets.
My point here is that Yarmuth was at least willing to tell activists what was going on, and he rightfully implied that the insufficient fiscal stimulus and the ACA would not do it for Democrats in 2010. Yarmuth has good political instincts and judgements IMHO. And he has fought for a more progressive agenda. I think it is a good sign that he will be chairing the House Budget Committee.