At-risk Democrats defend their tough votes on healthcare reform bill

Looming over all of it is a potential conference report in the coming weeks.

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Many of the at-risk members could soon be on the spot again, and the reactions they get between now and then will have a big impact on the bill’s future. Every vote would be important for a bill that passed 220-215 on its first try in the House and will now go to the Senate.

Playing off the uncertainty, some of the 39 Democrats who opposed the bill Saturday left open the possibility of supporting an improved version.

“Though I will not be voting in favor of the House bill, it has improved since first being released last summer, and it shows promise,” said Rep. Suzanne Kosmas (D-Fla.) before voting no. She was picketed afterward by supporters of the legislation.

Another freshman, Rep. John Boccieri (D-Ohio), said he held out hope.

“I hope when the healthcare reform bill comes back from the Senate, the concerns of my district are addressed,” he said.

Rep. Larry Kissell (D-N.C.) also announced before the vote that he would be opposing the bill. That has irritated the blogosphere, which helped put him on the political map three years ago.

“From the day I announced my candidacy for this office, I promised to protect Medicare,” Kissell said in his statement. “I gave my word I wouldn’t cut it and I intend to keep that promise.”

But for every targeted member voting against the bill, there was another who voted for it. And many of them were happy to pin their names and political futures to the legislation.

Rep. Chris Carney (D-Pa.), who according to The Cook Political Report represents the most Republican district held by a supporter of the bill, said Democrats “stood firm.”

“Today’s legislation is a strong start in the healthcare reform process, and we look forward to working closely with our Senate colleagues to move the issue forward in the coming weeks,” Carney said.

Carney acknowledged that the bill wasn’t perfect, but Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.) had nothing but good things to say about it. While many voting against the bill stressed that the cost was too high, Titus said the bill will help small businesses and Americans.

“The House took a giant step toward making healthcare reform affordable and accessible for more people in southern Nevada and across the country,” she said.
Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-Ohio) said Monday that he would campaign on  the vote.

Other members seem more apt to vote against the legislation if it doesn’t come back looking palatable.

Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Va.) was a consistent target of Republicans both before and after the vote.

While he appeared hesitant to vote for the legislation, he eventually voted yes and stressed that he had worked toward concessions.

“Our work on this bill is not over,” he said. “As healthcare legislation advances through Congress, I will work with my colleagues in the Senate to push for better interstate competition.”

Perriello’s Virginia colleague, Rep. Glenn Nye (D), took a different approach, voting against the bill but leaving open the possibility of voting for it later.

“Although this version of the bill takes important steps to lower the deficit in the short term, the [Congressional Budget Office] has said that it does not address the fundamental problem of reducing skyrocketing healthcare costs,” Nye said.

Perriello’s and Nye’s votes should continue to be topics of conversation if the measure comes back to the House, as should Boccieri’s, Kosmas’s, Kissell’s and those of many other vulnerable Democrats.

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But several Democrats appear dead-set against the bill, including many of the 15 who voted against bringing the bill to the floor — a procedural motion that in general breaks solidly along party lines.

In that group were vulnerable Reps. Bobby Bright (D-Ala.), Travis Childers (D-Miss.), Frank Kratovil (D-Md.), Parker Griffith (D-Ala.) and Walt Minnick (D-Idaho), as well as Rep. Charlie Melancon (D-La.), who is running for Senate in deep-red Louisiana.

Those six members all represent districts that went by double digits for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in last year’s presidential race, and most of them have broken with their party on other big-ticket items this year, including the stimulus package and the energy bill.

For many other members, though, the choice isn’t as clear.

Several of those voting for the bill, including Driehaus, cited an amendment authored by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) that would prevent taxpayer money being used to fund abortions. But while it provided them political cover in conservative districts this time around, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) suggested Monday that it would be stripped from a conference report.


SEE CHART BELOW

House Democrats who opposed stimulus, climate change and healthcare reform:
Bobby Bright (Ala.)           
Parker Griffith (Ala.)           
Walt Minnick (Idaho)
Gene Taylor (Miss.)

House Democrats who opposed climate change and healthcare reform:
Jason Altmire (Pa.)           
John Barrow (Ga.)           
Dan Boren (Okla.)           
Bobby Bright (Ala.)           
Travis Childers (Miss.)           
Artur Davis (Ala.)           
Lincoln Davis (Tenn.)           
Chet Edwards (Texas)           
Parker Griffith (Ala.)           
Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (S.D.)       
Tim Holden (Pa.)           
Larry Kissell (N.C.)
Dennis Kucinich (Ohio)
Jim Marshall (Ga.) 
Eric Massa (N.Y.)  
Jim Matheson (Utah)
Mike McIntyre (N.C.)
Charlie Melancon (La.)   
Walt Minnick (Idaho)
Glenn Nye (Va.)
Mike Ross (Ark.)
John Tanner (Tenn.)
Gene Taylor (Miss.)