Citing Specter shift, Sestak says Dems caved in on healthcare

Rep. Joe Sestak, the Pennsylvania Democratic Senate candidate, said this week that Democrats bent too far in order to pass the healthcare reform bill. 

Agreements cut with individual lawmakers and various health industry groups represented a compromise of principles that ultimately made voters suspicious of the bill, Sestak said Wednesday, without offering specifics. And launching the trouble, he said, was the party shift of Sen. Arlen Specter (D), who was defeated by Sestak in the Democratic primary earlier this year. 

"People appreciate that they don't always want to agree with you. But they don't want to think that you're making a deal with a health insurance company or Republican who become a Democrat just to get a deal through," Sestak, who's in a tight race against former GOP Rep. Pat Toomey (Pa.), told MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell. 

"They want to know that it's good enough … that you don't have to do it by conviction and by making principled compromise. And we did compromise principles."

The "Republican who became a Democrat" can only be a reference to Specter, who switched parties last year when Toomey threatened to unseat him in the GOP primary. Sestak has said the switch sparked an attitude among Democratic leaders that they should ram the bill through the Senate using anything it took to get 60 votes — an attitude that put deal-making ahead of good policy, he said.

"We didn't seize the White House through political calculations, we did it through audacity," Sestak said Wednesday.

He was responding to O'Donnell's request to clarify a similar statement the lawmaker had made recently to The New York Times

"I would argue my party began getting off the track when it made a political calculation for the 60th vote on health reform," he told the Times.