Of the 34 House Democrats who voted against the Senate healthcare bill on Sunday night, March 21, there really weren’t that many surprises. The more conservative members of the Blue Dog Coalition — the ones who are most likely to be found opposing other Democratic big-ticket items — make up the bulk of the no votes.

But not all of the Democrats who voted against reform come from Republican-friendly districts or face tough opposition in November. Several of them actually come from solidly Democratic urban districts. And not every Democrat who voted yes hails from a safe seat.

The chart below seeks to identify the 10 most courageous and the 10 most cowardly healthcare votes from House Democrats. The formula is simple: The courageous list is composed of pro-reform Democrats from districts with the least Democratic-friendly partisan vote index (PVI) ratings (which measure a district’s partisan tendencies). The cowardly list is of anti-reform Democrats from the most Democratic-friendly districts. (An explanation of PVI ratings can be found at swingstateproject.com.)

Alabama’s Artur Davis has the most Democratic-leaning district of any no vote. His 7th District gave Barack Obama nearly 73% of the vote in 2008. Davis, who ousted an incumbent Democrat (Earl Hilliard) in a primary in 2002, has spent the last few years as the least liberal member of the Congressional Black Caucus. But his departures from the party line have intensified this year as he runs for governor of Alabama — a much tougher task than running in his safely Democratic district. Whether voting no will help him with his state’s electorate remains to be seen.

Two other eyebrow-raising no votes were cast by Stephen Lynch, from South Boston, and Dan Lipinski, from Chicago’s Southwest Side. Lipinski was part of Bart Stupak’s antiabortion bloc, but apparently wasn’t satisfied by the compromise that brought Stupak aboard in the end.

Lynch is rumored to be interesting in challenging Scott Brown in the 2012 Massachusetts Senate race and seems to be gambling that Brown’s surprise victory in January was rooted in opposition to healthcare, and not simply Martha Coakley’s inept campaign. Of course, his vote could haunt him in a Democratic primary.

(Interestingly, both Lipinski and Lynch voted against the Senate bill but then voted for the reconciliation fix, potentially leaving no one happy.)

In fairness, it should be noted that Davis, Lynch and Lipinski are the only no-voting Democrats to represent truly safe seats. The others on the “cowardly” list hold seats that could be in danger this fall.

On the flip side, there are some Democrats from Republican-leaning districts who were willing to take a real political risk by voting yes.

North Dakota’s Earl Pomeroy and South Carolina’s John Spratt, in particular, may face the toughest races of their careers this fall because they supported reform on Sunday night. Indiana’s Brad Ellsworth also took a gamble; he’s not running for reelection, but he is running to succeed Evan Bayh in the Senate. It probably took less courage for Tennessee’s Bart Gordon, another red district Democrat, to vote yes — he’s retiring this year.

The Democrat who may have taken the biggest leap of faith, however, just missed the cut for the top 10: Colorado’s Betsy Markey, also at R+6 and widely regarded as one of the most vulnerable Democratic freshmen. She was one of the few who switched from a no to a yes.

The Ten Most Courageous

(Democrats from GOP-friendly districts who voted yes; member name and each district’s PVI rating are listed)

1. Bart Gordon (Tenn.-06); R+13

2. Earl Pomeroy (N.D.-at-large); R+10

3. Alan Mollohan (W.Va.-01); R+9

4. Chris Carney (Pa.-10 ); R+8

5. Brad Ellsworth (Ind.-08); R+8

6. John Spratt (S.C.-05); R+7

7. Nick Rahall (W.Va.-03); R+6

8. Baron Hill (Ind.-09); R+6

9. Ann Kirkpatrick (Ariz.-01; R+6

10. Allen Boyd (Fla.-02); R+6 

The Ten Most Cowardly

(Dems from the most Democratic-friendly districts who voted no; member name and each district’s PVI rating are listed)

1. Artur Davis (Ala.-07); D+18

2. Stephen Lynch (Mass.-09); D+11

3. Dan Lipinski (Ill.-03); D+11

4. John Barrow (Ga.-12); D+1

5. John Adler (N.J.-03); R+1

6. Larry Kissell (N.C.-08); R+2

7. Mike Arcuri (N.Y.-24); R+2

8. Mike McMahon (N.Y.-13); R+4

9. Glenn Nye (Va.-02); R+5

10. Collin Peterson (Minn.-07); R+5

— David Jarman is a Seattle writer. This appeared at Salon.com.

NEW PUSH FOR PUBLIC OPTION. Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), co-chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said she plans to sponsor a bill to add the government-run public option to the national healthcare exchange established by the reform bill, Michael O’Brien reported at TheHill.com (3/22). The public option had been a part of the bill first approved by the House last November, but Senate Democratic leaders were forced to abandon the provision after it became clear that they couldn’t get all 60 Democrats (at the time) to sign onto legislation containing that provision.

Woolsey and her caucus co-chairman, Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), had pushed for the public option throughout the different stages of the health debate, but still ended up voting in favor of the legislation in the end, despite some threats to do otherwise earlier in the process.

Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) has introduced HR 4789, which would let any American buy into Medicare at cost. It quickly attracted 80 co-sponsors (including Woolsey).

Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), has spoken of revisiting the public option down the line and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has committed to holding a vote on a public option in the coming months. Sam Stein reported at HuffingtonPost.com that public option advocates hope to attach the provision to another bill that could go through the budget reconciliation process, which would allow it to avoid a Republican filibuster and allow it to pass on an up-or-down vote.

GALLUP: AMERICANS VIEW HEALTH REFORM FAVORABLY. In the first poll taken since the House enacted the health insurance reform, Gallup reported (3/23) that 49% said it was a good thing, 40% said it was a bad thing and 11% don’t know. Independents narrowly said passage was a good thing, by a statistically insignificant 46-45. USA Today reported that a plurality of 48% called the bill “a good first step,” that should be followed by more action on health care. Greg Sargent at The Plum Line noted, “Gallup concludes that passage was a ‘clear political victory,’ but adds that much will turn on which way independents swing in coming weeks.”

CHAMBER WON’T SPEND ON REPEAL PUSH. Republicans in Congress plan to campaign on repealing the health insurance reform legislation and conservative groups are passing petitions to repeal the bill, but it seems the US Chamber of Commerce isn’t interested in throwing good money after bad. The Chamber spent $144 mln on defeating the measure, and CEO Tom Donohue still thinks it was “a wrong and unfortunate decision that ignores the will of the American people,” but he said the business group will push for changes to the bill when it enters the regulatory stage, the Wall Street Journal reported (3/22).

NUNS: HEALTH REFORM IS ‘LIFE AFFIRMING.’ The health reform bill exposed faultlines in the Catholic Church as leaders of more than four dozen US congregations of women religious backed the health reform bill in contradiction of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, who claimed the bill did not adequately ban federal funding of abortions. “Despite false claims to the contrary, the Senate bill will not provide taxpayer funding for elective abortions,” the nuns said in a letter delivered to members of Congress 3/17, reported by National Catholic Reporter (3/18). “It will uphold long-standing conscience protections and it will make historic new investments — $250 mln — in support of pregnant women.” Signers of the letter include the president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and the superiors or leadership teams of religious orders representing 59,000 Catholic women religious.

“We have witnessed firsthand the impact of our national health care crisis, particularly its impact on women, children and people who are poor,” the letter said. “We see the toll on families who have delayed seeking care due to a lack of health insurance coverage or lack of funds with which to pay high deductibles and co-pays. We have counseled and prayed with men, women and children who have been denied health care coverage by insurance companies.” The women religious said they joined with the Catholic Health Association, “which represents 1,200 Catholic sponsors, systems, facilities and related organizations, in saying: The time is now for health reform and the Senate bill is a good way forward.”

Sr. Carol Keehan, a Daughter of Charity who is president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, praised the legislation, saying it “represents great progress in the long effort to make health care available and affordable to everyone in the United States.” She urged the Senate to take quick action to pass the reconciliation package.

GOP FRIVOLOUS LAWSUIT. How likely are the Republican state attorneys general to win their lawsuit claiming that Congress lacks the authority to require people to buy private insurance? Very unlikely. Virginia Atty. Gen. Ken Cuccinelli announced plans to sue on the grounds that the federal government was abusing its “power to regulate interstate commerce” by passing a personal mandate. Florida Atty. Gen. Bill McCollum agreed, calling the mandate an attempt “to fine or tax someone just for living.” A lot of people feel the same way about the income tax. But the individual mandate was first proposed by the conservative Heritage Foundation and it was passed into law by then-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) and advocated by Republican presidential candidate John McCain. Also, the penalties for not buying insurance are basically taxes, over which the courts have given Congress wide latitude. But if the Republican majority on the Supreme Court bought the argument and invalidated the individual mandate, it would not bring down the whole bill — only require insurance companies to insure all comers without forcing the healthy people onto their ratebase. The insurance companies would scream bloody murder.

BUM’S RUSH. When Rush Limbaugh flippantly said that if the healthcare reform bill passes “and all this stuff gets implemented, I am leaving this country. I’ll go to Costa Rica.” But after the House enacted the bill and Limbaugh issued no “Hasta la vista,” two enterprising “dudes living in Brooklyn” named Mike and Patrick (who don’t have health insurance) decided to help move things along. They created ATicketForRush.com, where visitors can contribute — one dollar at a time — toward the cost of a first-class, one-way ticket to Juan Santamaria International Airport. In 24 hours they had raised $1,654. If Rush gets cold feet and refuses to move to Costa Rica, they said, the money will go to Planned Parenthood.

TEABAGGERS SLUR BLACK CONGRESSMEN. Tea Party activists rallying on Capitol Hill to oppose health reform yelled racial slurs at black lawmakers (3/20). John Lewis (D-Ga.) said he was leaving the Cannon office building to walk to the Capitol to vote when protesters shouted “Kill the bill, kill the bill,” William Douglas reported for McClatchy Newspapers (3/20). When Lewis said he was for the bill, a colleague accompanying Lewis told Douglas, people replied, “Kill the bill, then the n-word.” Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) said he was a few yards behind Lewis and distinctly heard “nigger.” The No. 3 House Democrat, Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), said, “I heard people saying things today that I have not heard since March 15, 1960, when I was marching to try to get off the back of the bus.” He added, “A lot of us have said for a long time that none of this is about health care at all. It’s about extending a basic fundamental right to people who are less powerful.”

Later, Cleaver’s office issued a statement that a protester spat on Cleaver as he was walking to the Capitol (3/20). Demonstrators also reportedly made anti-gay remarks to Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.). And Greg Sargent reported at The Plum Line (3/21) that Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-Texas) has said he was recently called a “wetback” by an anti-reform protester at a town meeting in his district and another opponent called his home and told the family member who answered the phone to “go back to Mexico.”

Rep. David Dunes (R-Calif.) on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal (3/21) justified the racist and homophobic slurs as a response to “totalitarian tactics” that he alleges Democrats are engaging in. “I think, you know, there’s people that have every right to say what they want. If they want to smear someone, they can do it,” he said, according to ThinkProgress.org.

BECK: NO CIVIL RIGHTS POSEURS. Racial epithets didn’t bother Glenn Beck as much as the sight of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Lewis and other Democratic leaders marching arm-in-arm from their caucus meeting to Capitol Hill the following day, en route to passing the health reform bill. “They locked arms, because they wanted to compare themselves to the civil rights activists,” Beck said on his Fox “News” show. “How dare you!” he demanded.

Beck apparently was unaware that from 1963-66, Lewis was chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which was largely responsible for organizing student activism in the civil rights movement. He was beaten nearly to death by Alabama state troopers, suffering a fractured skull as he led a march of 600 people in Selma, Ala., in 1965. Steve Benen noted at WashingtonMonthly.com (3/23), “John Lewis doesn’t have to compare himself to civil rights activist; he was a civil rights movement, and the advances of the era were made possible because of John Lewis’ extraordinary courage and heroism. When he locks arms with his allies to go pass health care reform, he understands the symbolism far better than a self-described rodeo clown.”

ACORN DISBANDING. The community organizing group ACORN is disbanding, the group announced at acorn.org. The organization’s board decided (3/21) to close remaining state affiliates and field offices by 4/1 and develop a plan to resolve outstanding debts, obligations and other issues.

The organization has been under fire since video emerged six months ago showing ACORN workers giving tax tips to conservative activists posing as a pimp and prostitute.

“ACORN has faced a series of well-orchestrated, relentless, well-funded right wing attacks that are unprecedented since the McCarthy era,” ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis said in a press release. “Our effective work empowering African American and low-income voters made us a target. The videos were a manufactured, sensational story that led to rush to judgment and an unconstitutional act by Congress” to deny federal funding to ACORN.

That act blacklisting ACORN was invalidated by federal court. Last year an independent report by former Massachusetts Att’y Gen. Scott Harshbarger examining the undercover videos stated that the employees portrayed in the videos did not engage in any illegal activity. Another study by the Congressional Research Service in December cleared the group of charges that ACORN “violated the terms of federal funding in the last five years.” The charges were leveled by right-wing activists hostile to its voter registration work, ACORN said.

“For ACORN as a national organization, our vindication on the facts doesn’t necessarily pay the bills,” Lewis said. “I know that ACORN’s dedicated community members will continue to speak out for justice and organize in their communities.”

Several affiliates have broken away to continue their community organizing activities under new names, including Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, New York Communities for Change and the Chicago-based Affordable Housing Centers of America, formerly ACORN Housing.

James O’Keefe, the activist filmmaker who impersonated the pimp in the undercover videos, was arrested by federal marshals (1/26) and charged with entering federal property under false pretenses with the intent of committing a felony in connection with an apparent prank at the New Orleans office of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.).

GOHMERT: STOP ELECTING SENATORS. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), a former state judge, said the “power grab” represented by the Democratic enactment of health insurance reform points out the need for a constitutional amendment to eliminate the direct election of senators. “Ever since the safeguard of state legislatures electing US senators was removed by the 17th Amendment in 1913, there has been no check or balance on the Federal power grab for the last 97 years,” Gohmert said in a press release (3/23). Under Article V, a minimum of 34 states may demand a convention to propose a constitutional amendment to “put a check and balance back on Federal usurpation of rights reserved to the States and people under the 9th and 10th Amendments.” 

Dave Weigel of WashingtonIndependent.com noted that Democrats, who now have 59 senators, control 27 state legislatures, “so this would be a pretty bad deal for them at present, sending them back to 54 senators.”

KY. DEMS SPAR OVER HEALTH REFORM. In the Democratic primary to replace retiring Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.), state Atty. Gen. Jack Conway supports the health insurance reform while Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo does not. Conway said the bill is not perfect, but he would have voted for it. He would introduce a bill to give Medicare the right to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices, which could save taxpayers $200 bln. Mongiardo, a physician, has said the bill “will not fundamentally address our health care challenges” and he would “throw it out and start over,” the *Lexington Herald-Leader* reported (3/23). Conway (JackConway.org) noted Mongiardo has the same position as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) although Mongiardo’s website (drdan2010.com) indicates he supports access to affordable healthcare and included his comment that “The healthcare reform bill is a good first step — but there is still more work to be done to get costs under control and improve quality.”

From The Progressive Populist, April 15, 2010


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