For Undecided Lawmakers, Health Care Bill Is Personal
Politico: The decision on how to vote on the health care overhaul affects members differently than nearly any other issue. "[N]o other single issue - civil rights, Medicare, even war in this age of professional armies - quite matches the personal side of health care's stubborn details. Everybody gets sick; everybody dies. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) talked about his own battle with Crohn's disease this week in announcing his vote. Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), so identified with the single anti-abortion issue, spoke of his own insurance coverage problems because of prior injuries. Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.) lost 40 pounds after reading about preventive health measures." Walz said a large issue about the bill was messaging--so much of the controversy had to do with constituents not understanding what the measure would actually do. He also said after the bill was thought to be dead, some of the very same constituents telling him to vote no before, were calling his office to tell him, "Get that thing in there about keeping my kids on till [age] 27. Just pass a bill doing that" (Rogers, 3/19).
The Hill: Among those facing a tough decision on the vote are 46 House Democrats who come from districts that Sen. John McCain won in the 2008 presidential election. "As of Thursday evening, 25 of the 46 were prepared to vote against the president, while just seven were on his side. If all Republicans vote against the measure, they need 38 Democrats to cross over in order to kill the bill." The Hill reports that the members will be considering many different factors when making their decision, including whether public opinion will change, if the economy will be the ultimate deciding factor in 2010 elections, and whether their constituents in their individual districts will be swayed by their explanations of their votes (Blake, 3/19).
Wall Street Journal: Rep. Brad Ellsworth is one of the votes that might be changing from a "yes" to a "no," but he says he is still undecided. "Mr. Ellsworth is one of about a dozen undecided Democrats who hold the fate of the Obama administration health-care bill in their hands. Unlike when he voted for the House bill that passed Nov. 7, he is now running for the U.S. Senate." Ellsworth was a supporter of the House bill only after the attachment of the Stupak amendment, which strictly prohibited federal funding for abortion. He says his decision will be made on "reviewing the bill's limits on federal funding for abortion to see if they go far enough" (Belkin and Hitt, 3/19).
Politico, in a separate story, offers a guide to those lawmakers who remain undecided, and offers insights into their current political circumstances and how they factor into the final decision, including reretirement and specific re-election challenges (Mahtesian, 3/19).
Meanwhile, The Los Angeles Times profiles White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and senior adviser David Axelrod and their roles in shaping the health care legislation. "The story of how the two interacted during the fight to pass the healthcare bill is a window not only on their relationship but also on the administration's process of governing, which has the historic legislation at the brink of passage. As the healthcare debate evolved, some on Capitol Hill believed it looked like Emanuel and Axelrod were staking out polar positions on the hot-button question of whether the government should offer a public insurance program. ... But people who took part in the in-house talks give a more nuanced account. Both men were actually for the public option, as several of them tell the story" (Parsons and Nicholas, 3/19).
The Washington Times reports that the proposed health care bill "will test the political clout of evangelical Protestant activists, including former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee." Huckabee and other evangelical leaders will attempt to garner opposition to the bill among "constituents of eight pro-life House Democrats who are considered on the fence or were heavily lobbied by Mr. Obama and Democratic leaders." The campaign will include an e-mail from Huckabee stating: "President Obama, [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi and [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid are doing everything in their power to push through a health care bill that would mandate federally funded abortions, along with a host of other issues that the American people have clearly said they don't want" (Hallow, 3/19).