The vote in favor of passing HR3962, America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, was 220 in favor to 215 opposed in the House of Representatives last night.
While not a perfect solution to all of the flaws of the American health care “system,” this bill goes further to provide all Americans with health insurance coverage than ever before. And while I am personally in favor of putting all insurance companies out of business and adopting a government-run, single-payor system, I recognized the promise of this bill as one of a series of steps toward the ideal.
In short, this bill isn’t liberal enough to satisfy my ultimate preferences, but it is so much better than the status quo that I just don’t understand how anyone who was elected as a Democrat could vote against it.
And yet, 39 members of the Democratic caucus in the House did just that.
The New York Times has a very helpful chart of those individuals, including the percentage of “nonelderly uninsured” individuals in their districts as well as voting breakdowns from the 2008 election.
Let’s look at some of those figures, along with statements from the Representatives themselves, shall we?
First up, with the highest percentage of “nonelderly uninsured” at 29% is Congressman Dan Boren from Oklahoma’s second district — the eastern quarter of the state. The district has a population of around 690,000 people, according to the 2000 census, which means that approximately 200,000 of those people are the “nonelderly uninsured” documented by the NYT chart.
Dan Boren won his last election by 41%, even though his district voted for McCain by a margin of 32%. And why did he vote against insuring ~200,000 of his constituents?
Two reasons: abortion, and taxes. He’s a so-called “Blue Dog” Democrat, a fiscal conservative, and doesn’t want to spend a trillion dollars on health care by raising any taxes, especially if any of that money goes toward funding abortions.
Except that the anti-abortion amendment, the Stupak amendment, passed by a vote of 240-119. Proposed and championed by a Democrat from Michigan, the amendment forbids any insurance policy purchased through the federally-funded exchange created by the bill to offer any coverage for abortions.
So for Boren, it really came down to money in the end. Money, vs. ~200,000 people without health coverage.
Second is Congressman Harry Teague, from New Mexico’s second District, the southern half of my state, with 25% “nonelderly uninsured.” The district has just over 600,000 people over a vast geographical area, so that percentage works out to about 151,000 individuals without health coverage.
Harry Teague is a freshman Congressman, and won the election by 12 points in a district that went for McCain by ONE percent. And why did he vote against health care reform, insuring ~151,000 New Mexicans?
After waffling about “concern” over the public option, Teague’s official reasoning is that the bill doesn’t go far enough to rein in the insurance companies, or lower costs for businesses. While I am inclined to agree with this statement, I don’t see it as a valid excuse for voting against a bill that does so many good things — particularly abolishing exclusions for pre-existing conditions. And when you represent a district with ~151,000 individuals with no health care at all, I find this vote unconscionable.
For the record, Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio’s tenth district voted no for much the same reason — he is of the opinion that a single-payor system is the only way to go, regardless of the approximately 82,000 individuals in his district who currently have no health care.
There are 36 more Democratic Representatives who voted no, for all kinds of reasons.
I have to say that I personally respect Congressman Cao more than any of the Democrats who voted no because the bill “doesn’t go far enough,” because he actually took his constituents into account rather than pure politics. Louisiana’s second district, encompassing most of New Orleans, needs the health care coverage that this bill provides (PDF), regardless of what the Republican party leadership says, and Cao stood up for them.
I wish more Democrats had that kind of conscience.
I suspect that Congressman Cao will also be easily reelected, particularly if health care reform gets through the Senate and is actually signed into law. Likewise, I suspect the Democrats who voted “no” to face some tough primary challenges, and Republican victories in the general.