Only 4 anti-Obamacare House Dems left for fall elections

  An animation of Democrats who voted against Obamacare is shown. | AP Photos

Thirty-four House Democrats bucked their party to vote against Obamacare when it passed in 2010. Today, only four of those lawmakers are still in office and running for reelection this fall.

The dramatic downsize underscores not only how consequential the health care law vote was but how quickly moderate Democrats have been eliminated on Capitol Hill. Even those who opposed the law had trouble surviving the highly partisan atmosphere it helped to create.

With the divide only more pronounced in 2014, the final four are trying to avoid a similar fate. Obamacare remains a volatile issue, and all still tout their “no” vote. Yet their vulnerability also reflects a more daunting and long-lasting problem for lawmakers who would occupy the middle ground.

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“I don’t think you can just look at the Affordable Care Act — you have to look at the broader picture,” said Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota. “You just don’t have many people like myself left. The moderates on the Republican side are gone, too.”

Although there are small signs that the health care law’s presence on the campaign trail is waning, Peterson and Reps. Daniel Lipinski of Illinois, John Barrow of Georgia and Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts continue to be challenged over whether they did enough to try to stop Obamacare.

“I think I’ve done more than maybe any member in the House to either sponsor, co-sponsor or vote for bills to make changes to it,” Lipinski said. “I know I have an opponent saying ‘repeal , repeal, repeal.’ But I think most people understand where we are at right now. They know changes need to be made. But they don’t want to throw the whole thing out.”

Lynch, one of the rare Democrats who opposed the health care law from the left, is the only one of the remaining four who doesn’t have an opponent in November. Lipinski, Barrow and Peterson, by contrast, have real campaigns ahead. They represent swing districts that the GOP has been working to reclaim for some time, and all face opponents trying to tie them to Obamacare and to capitalize on the continued unpopularity of both the law and President Barack Obama.

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Rick Allen, the well-funded Republican hoping to unseat Barrow, has repeatedly blasted him for supporting the law, including a Facebook post that faulted him for voting “27 times against repealing, defunding or delaying Obamacare.” Peterson’s and Lipinski’s opponents have lobbed similar criticisms.

None of the four incumbents has voted to fully repeal the law, but each has backed bills to eliminate particularly disliked parts of Obamacare, such as the employer mandate or individual mandate.

Barrow, for one, turned down the government’s contribution to his health insurance. Lipinski is the lead Democrat on a measure to change the ACA’s “full time” definition from 30 hours to 40 hours. Both have co-sponsored several bills against parts of the law and voted for more.

Peterson hasn’t been quite as quick to lead the efforts against Obamacare, but he has joined Republicans on several pieces of anti-ACA legislation that have come to the House floor. While he knows the law played a big role in his 2012 race, he senses that its political liability is starting to diminish.

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“The only time it comes up [with constituents] is when I bring it up,” said Peterson, who thinks the GOP overplayed its hand with dozens of repeal votes. “People are smarter than that. They know the Senate is Democratic and the president will be there another two years. Even if they wanted repeal, I think they’ve realized it’s not going to happen.”

Like the other three Democrats, he said he sees value in some parts of the ACA but would vote against it again today. He and the others have touted their opposition and taken steps to remind constituents of their 2010 vote. Both Lynch and Lipinski say they still have constituents thanking them.

“I get mostly really, really, really positive response,” Lynch said. “I think it’s because, as is usually the case with a 2,400-page bill, nobody read it. None of my constituents really realized the full details.”

As they seek reelection this fall, all four men find themselves somewhere in between the Democrats who support the law but are loathe to acknowledge its problems and the Republicans who can’t admit that it has benefits beyond eliminating denials based on preexisting conditions.

They are pushing a “fix it” line — as in, they didn’t support the law, but now that it’s here, they don’t want to repeal it. Instead, they want to repair the flaws they see in the legislation. Polling backs up the strategy.

“It’s the sweet spot in the polls — to be for improving the law, so you’re not for it but you’re not for denying people those benefits,” said Drew Altman, president of the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Barrow, who has frequently supported GOP bills to repeal or undermine small portions of the law, is expecting his Republican challenger to use Obamacare against him.

“I’m sure it will be an issue for our opponent this fall,” a Barrow aide said. But the lawmaker is “never afraid to talk about it. He was adamantly opposed to the bill when it came out. … But now, he says this all the time: He’s the guy who has had prostate cancer, and he knows the value of preventive measures. He knows the value of not being able to deny something for preexisting conditions.”

The four Democrats are hoping to hang on where other moderates couldn’t.

Half of the 34 who voted against Obamacare in March 2010 lost their seats that November, overcome by the Republican wave that was powered in part by the law. Another four chose not to run for reelection.

Public sentiment hadn’t shifted much by 2012. And today, after defeats and retirements, only six Democrats of the original “no” votes remain. They include Reps. Jim Matheson of Utah and Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, who announced their departures earlier this year.

Rep. Ben Chandler of Kentucky was among those defeated in 2012. He believes his vote against the law helped him win reelection in 2010, but he couldn’t pull out another tough race just two years later.

“I’m quite confident that had I voted for the Affordable Care Act, I would have lost in 2010,” Chandler said.

Obamacare has played “a huge role” in Democrats’ losses, he said. “When it was being debated, a whole bunch of us moderate Democrats were sitting in the back [of the House chamber], saying, this is going to be the end of us, we’ve got no chance to survive this.”

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2 responses

  1. This article illustrates why voting for the Republicrat political actors who star in the District of Criminals (D.C.) Kabuki Theatre is an exercise in futility. Every 2-4 years, we collectively urinate on each others’ legs at the polls, then slap each other on the back and express our appreciation for the abundant rainfall.

    While most of the U.S. naifs don’t care…as they are too busy “rendering to Caesar” the fruits of the labor for the monstrosity known as “public welfare” and for the eternal foreign wars (not to mention the fruits of their loins, i.e. their progeny, for the foreign war meat grinder)…this is what formers presidents and CONgress-critters had to say about “our political process” (which is why the RepubliCONs voted to fund ObamaCare despite their supposed opposition to same):

    “Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people. To destroy this invisible government, to befoul the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day.”
    – Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, An Autobiography, 1913 (Appendix B)

    “A great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credit. Our system of credit is privately concentrated. The growth of the nation, therefore, and all our activities are in the hands of a few men… [W]e have come to be one of the worst ruled, one of the most completely controlled and dominated, governments in the civilized world—no longer a government by free opinion, no longer a government by conviction and the vote of the majority, but a government by the opinion and the duress of small groups of dominant men.”
    – Woodrow Wilson, 28th President of the United States, The New Freedom, 1913

    “Since I entered politics, I have chiefly had men’s views confided to me privately. Some of the biggest men in the United States, in the field of commerce and manufacture, are afraid of something. They know that there is a power somewhere so organized, so subtle, so watchful, so interlocked, so complete, so pervasive, that they had better not speak above their breath when they speak in condemnation of it.”
    – Woodrow Wilson, 28th President of the United States, The New Freedom, 1913

    “The real menace of our Republic is the invisible government, which like a giant octopus sprawls its slimy legs over our cities, states and nation… The little coterie of powerful international bankers virtually run the United States government for their own selfish purposes. They practically control both parties, … and control the majority of the newspapers and magazines in this country. They use the columns of these papers to club into submission or drive out of office public officials who refuse to do the bidding of the powerful corrupt cliques which compose the invisible government. It operates under cover of a self-created screen [and] seizes our executive officers, legislative bodies, schools, courts, newspapers and every agency created for the public protection.”
    – New York City Mayor John F. Hylan, New York Times, March 26, 1922

    “Mr. Chairman, we have in this country one of the most corrupt institutions the world has ever known. I refer to the Federal Reserve Board and the Federal Reserve Banks. The Federal Reserve Board, a Government board, has cheated the Government of the United States and the people of the United States out of enough money to pay the national debt…Mr. Chairman, when the Federal Reserve act was passed, the people of the United States did not perceive that a world system was being set up here… and that this country was to supply financial power to an international super-state — a super-state controlled by international bankers and international industrialists acting together to enslave the world for their own pleasure.”
    – Congressman Louis T. McFadden, from a speech delivered to the House of Representatives on June 10, 1932

    “The real truth of the matter is, as you and I know, that a financial element in the large centers has owned the government ever since the days of Andrew Jackson.”
    – Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States (1933–1945), in a letter to Colonel Edward M House dated November 21, 1933, as quoted in F.D.R.: His Personal Letters, 1928-1945.

    “Today the path to total dictatorship in the U.S. can be laid by strictly legal means… We have a well-organized political-action group in this country, determined to destroy our Constitution and establish a one-party state… It operates secretly, silently, continuously to transform our Government… This ruthless power-seeking elite is a disease of our century… This group…is answerable neither to the President, the Congress, nor the courts. It is practically irremovable.”
    – Senator William Jenner, 1954 speech

    “The individual is handicapped by coming face-to-face with a conspiracy so monstrous he cannot believe it exists. The American mind simply has not come to a realization of the evil which has been introduced into our midst. It rejects even the assumption that human creatures could espouse a philosophy which must ultimately destroy all that is good and decent.”
    – J. Edgar Hoover, The Elks Magazine, 1956

    “The very word “secrecy” is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings… Our way of life is under attack. Those who make themselves our enemy are advancing around the globe… no war ever posed a greater threat to our security. If you are awaiting a finding of “clear and present danger,” then I can only say that the danger has never been more clear and its presence has never been more imminent… For we are opposed around the world by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that relies primarily on covert means for expanding its sphere of influence–on infiltration instead of invasion, on subversion instead of elections, on intimidation instead of free choice, on guerrillas by night instead of armies by day. It is a system which has conscripted vast human and material resources into the building of a tightly knit, highly efficient machine that combines military, diplomatic, intelligence, economic, scientific and political operations. Its preparations are concealed, not published. Its mistakes are buried, not headlined. Its dissenters are silenced, not praised. No expenditure is questioned, no rumor is printed, no secret is revealed.”
    – John F Kennedy, 35th President of the United States, from a speech delivered to the American Newspaper Publishers Association on April 27, 1961 and known as the “Secret Society” speech (click here for full transcript and audio).

    “The Rockefellers and their allies have, for at least fifty years, been carefully following a plan to use their economic power to gain political control of first America, and then the rest of the world. Do I mean conspiracy? Yes, I do. I am convinced there is such a plot, international in scope, generations old in planning, and incredibly evil in intent.”
    – Congressman Larry P. McDonald, November 1975, from the introduction to a book titled The Rockefeller File.

    “There exists a shadowy government with its own Air Force, its own Navy, its own fundraising mechanism, and the ability to pursue its own ideas of national interest, free from all checks and balances, and free from the law itself.”
    – Daniel K. Inouye, US Senator from Hawaii, testimony at the Iran Contra Hearings, 1986

    1. Senator_Blutarsky

      “The real truth of the matter is, as you and I know, that a financial element in the larger centers has owned the Government ever since the days of Andrew Jackson — and I am not wholly excepting the Administration of W. W. The country is going through a repetition of Jackson’s fight with the Bank of the United States — only on a far bigger and broader basis.​”

      Letter to Col. Edward Mandell House (21 November 1933); as quoted in F.D.R.: His Personal Letters, 1928-1945, edited by Elliott Roosevelt (New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1950), pg. 373.​

      Brubaker, your citations fully support the conclusion that we, as voters and citizens, have lost control of our government to a financial oligarchy and their hirelings in intel-military-big industry-agri-pharma et al , and control BOTH major political parties.

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