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The 39 House Democrats who Voted Against Their Party's Health Care Bill

5 years ago
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Are they cowardly or courageous? Opportunistic or principled? Misguided or sensible? Male or female? Well, only the last question can be answered definitively – three female Democrats bucked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to vote nay on House Resolution 3962, a.k.a. The Affordable Health Care for America Act. They were: Colorado's Betsy Markey, Florida's Suzanne Kosmas, and South Dakota's Stephanie Herseth Sandlin. More important than their gender, all three hail from districts carried by John McCain and Sarah Palin over Barack Obama and Joe Biden in 2008.
That phenomenon was the main constant in Saturday's vote, as 31 of the 39 of the Democrats who defected represent districts carried by the GOP presidential ticket last year. Their votes, in other words, may reflect canny political instincts. House members run every two years and these Democrats don't fear the "Tea Party" set that have taken over the Republican megaphone as much as they do the independent-minded voters who split their tickets to send them to Washington in the first place.
Fourteen of the 39 were freshmen. In 10 of those 14 districts, McCain won, and usually won big. These are, presumably, the most vulnerable Democrats in 2010. (The New York Times has a nice graphic showing all these numbers).
For instance, in both Bobby Bright's Alabama 2nd and Walt Minnick's Idaho 1st, McCain-Palin bested Obama-Biden by 26 percentage points. The GOP national candidates also won by 23 points in Parker Griffith's Alabama district and 19 points in Frank Kratovil's Maryland district. Kratovil, you may recall, was one of the Democrats hung in effigy outside a town hall meeting this summer. Two other freshmen, Scott Murphy of New York and Glenn Nye of Virginia, come from districts that went for Obama – but only by razor-thin margins.
So that's the pressure the freshmen are under. But several well-known veteran House members faced powerful potential backlashes in their districts. In Rep. Chet Edwards' Texas district and Glen Taylor's Mississippi district, for example, McCain bested Obama by 35 percent. In Dave Boren's Oklahoma district it was McCain by 32, in Lincoln Davis' Tennessee district McCain won by 29, and Ike Skelton's Missouri district went McCain by 22. It's also safe to say that Obamacare is not terribly popular in those places.
And some members have other considerations. In one district where supporting the president and the Democratic congressional leadership is probably quite safe -- Artur Davis' 7th Alabama district – another factor came into play. A Harvard-educated moderate, Davis is planning a statewide campaign in 2010, seeking to become the first African American governor in Alabama's history. Davis voted no.
In another district where a vote in favor of the Democrats' health care bill would have been fine with the constituents -- Ohio's 10th -- leftist Cleveland contrarian Dennis Kucinich voted nay because his party's reforms wouldn't go far enough; i.e., the legislation would leave insurance and pharmaceutical companies still in business. Kucinich's entire statement is here. It's pretty long, so here's the gist: "Notwithstanding the fate of H.R. 3962, America will someday come to recognize the broad social and economic benefits of a not-for-profit, single-payer health care system, which is good for the American people and good for America's businesses, with of course the notable exceptions being insurance and pharmaceuticals."
A short note about the lone Republican who voted for the bill, first-term Louisiana Rep. Anh Cao. Cao won his seat because he was lucky enough to be running against nine-term Democrat William Jefferson, who had been indicted and later found guilty on corruption charges. Cao said he did it after listening to "the countless stories of Orleans and Jefferson Parish citizens whose health care costs are exploding – if they are able to obtain health care at all." But he also underlined his support for an amendment that would bar any public plan from covering abortion.
The Democrats who voted against the bill:
John Adler (NJ)
Jason Altmire (PA)
Brian Baird (WA)
John Barrow (GA)
John Boccieri (OH)
Dan Boren (OK)
Rick Boucher (VA)
Allen Boyd (FL)
Bobby Bright (AL)
Ben Chandler (KT)
Travis Childers (MS)
Artur Davis (AL)
Lincoln Davis (TN)
Chet Edwards (TX)
Bart Gordon (TN)
Parker Griffith (AL)
Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (SD)
Tim Holden (PA)
Larry Kissell (NC)
Suzanne Kosmas (FL)
Frank Kratovil (MD)
Dennis Kucinich (OH)
Jim Marshall (GA)
Betsy Markey (CO)
Eric Massa (NY)
Jim Matheson(UT)
Mike McIntyre (NC)
Michael McMahon (NY)
Charlie Melancon (LA)
Walt Minnick (ID)
Scott Murphy (NY)
Glenn Nye (VA)
Collin Peterson (MN)
Mike Ross (AR)
Heath Shuler (NC)
Ike Skelton (MO)
John Tanner (TN)
Gene Taylor (MS)
Harry Teague (NM)
Tagged: anh cao, AnhCao

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