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SEIU: Don't give up the fight

From NBC's Domenico Montanaro
Don't give up the fight, Mr. President. That's the message from the labor community ahead of tonight's State of the Union address.

SEIU Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger, in a phone interview with First Read, stressed that she wants President Obama tonight not to shirk from a progressive agenda, to call out Republicans (which she called "the party of nope") and advocated for using reconciliation to pass health care.

She also expects the president to speak "very strongly" about what can be done for working families and to be tough on banks.

The sentiment is indicative of how liberals feel after the Massachusetts election. They point out that Democrats still have a 59-41 majority in the Senate -- the second largest in 30 years -- and that there's a reason for that majority. Labor unions play a major role in helping Democrats get elected -- with campaign ads, and activists on the ground.

"Jobs," Burger said, "is my favorite four-letter word in the English language."

Burger expressed urgency on health care.

"We have to get health-care reform done," she said, adding that Congress is "really close."

She said Obama should "shake up the Senate" and "make them understand that 51 is a majority."

Reconciliation would require that every item in the Senate bill be tied to the budget. It would also temporary -- as the Bush tax cuts were -- and each item would be subject to the approval of the Senate parliamentarian. But those considerations do not make Burger believe the Senate shouldn't go through with it.

"The lack of action is much more concerning," she said. "We cannot move forward if we don't act. ... It is a crime that we haven't solved this problem."

As far as whether or not she thinks the House should go first and go back to the Senate or vice versa, she said, "I don't care what we do as long as we get it done. … I don't care if we do a rain dance."

This, despite the Massachusetts result. She stressed that the Massachusetts result was not a vote against health care, as Massachusetts already has health care, though she acknowledged that voters "were worried it would somehow cost them more money." But the overarching issue, she said, was the economy. "They voted for change," she said, "They were worried about jobs."

She cited Oregon voting yesterday for tax hikes on the wealthy and corporations as well as a sign of voters voting for change.