The New York Times has an excellent graphic up today profiling the 39 Democrats who voted against healthcare reform in the House of Representatives on Saturday night. The Times notes that 31 of these Democrats represent districts won by John McCain, as if that’s a sufficient excuse. But take a closer look at the numbers. Paradoxically, those Democrats voting against healthcare reform represent constituents most in need of health insurance.
Dan Boren of Oklahoma, arguably the most conservative Democrat in Congress, leads the way. Twenty-nine percent of his non-elderly constituents lack health insurance. He’s followed by Harry Teague of New Mexico (25 percent uninsured), Waco’s Chet Edwards (23 percent), North Carolinians Mike McIntyre (23 percent) and Heath Shuler (21 percent), Blue Dog leader Mike Ross (22 percent) and fellow Southerners Gene Taylor (22 percent), Jim Marshall (22 percent) and John Barrow (21 percent).
These Democrats will talk about fiscal responsibility and cost containment and preserving the free market, but let’s get real–their votes had nothing to do with ideological concerns. After all, the legislation was severely watered down to please people like Mike Ross, who voted against the bill anyway. It was all politics, even though 22 of these Democrats won their districts by double-digits. Ross led the way, defeating his practically nonexistent GOP opponent by 72 points! He’s hardly an endangered species.
Moreover, eight of the no voters represent districts won by President Obama, such as Larry Kissell in North Carolina’s Piedmont (20 percent uninsured), who ran as a champion of the little guy and a supporter of universal healthcare. What’s his excuse?
Obama delivered a firm message when he addressed the House Democratic caucus on Saturday night. "Do any of you expect the Republicans not to go after you if you vote against this bill?" Obama asked. Of course not. Republicans will do everything they can to oust conservative Democrats in 2010, just as Democrats defeated moderate Republicans in ’06 and ’08. Congressional Democrats will rise and fall based on the popularity of their president. I’m not sure why that point isn’t obvious by now. If Obama flounders, so will the Blue Dogs and everybody else. Derailing the centerpiece of Obama’s agenda hurts everyone in the Democratic Party.
Not all potentially vulnerable Democrats fell into the no category. Fifteen Democrats who represent districts that lean Republican or are pure tossups voted for the bill, including three from Arizona, one from Kansas and two from upstate New York. Newly elected Democrat Bill Owens represents a district held by Republicans for 138 years. If he can vote for the bill, anyone can.