Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Health Care: A Tale of Two Congressional Reps

The historic 219-212 Yes Vote for Health Care reform proved actually not to be a Democrati versus Republican matter as much as an inner party struggle where Democratic congressional reps from either red or purple states had to decide if the controversial, yet significant legislation was worth the political risk it entailed.

Thus hardly any Blue State Democratic representatives, with the exception of Cong. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), voted against the bill while several red state Democrats, including Cong. Jeff Tanner (D-Tenn.) and Cong. Jim Matheson (D-Utah) voted against it.

Thus, the battle came down to swing state Democrats and nowhere was that felt more here than along the Virginia/North Carolina border.

My own congressional rep Cong. Brad Miller (D-NC) voted for the bill in spite of death threats he recieved over the summer from far right constituents who wanted to force his vote the other way.

Another Triad rep Cong. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), one of the most partisan Republicans in Congress, publicly said the health care bill was a greater threat to American national security than radical Islamic terrorists.

In the end, there were no surprises in Virginia or North Carolina except that Cong. Rick Boucher (D-Va) who represents the southwest part of the state voted against the bill, perhaps because of impending political pressure from a potential run against Virginia's House Majority Leader Morgan Griffith (R-Salem) who has indicated he may run against Boucher. The only congressional rep from Virginia with more seniority than Boucher, elected in 1984, is Cong. Frank Wolf (R-VA) who was elected in 1980.

Like all House Republicans, Wolf- who is considered to be a more moderate member of the Virginia GOP delegation- said he voted against the bill because of the alleged
$1 trillion price tag associated with it.

There were three members of North Carolina's Democratic delegation which voted against the bill. While it may seem more politically safe to make such a move, the three reps who voted against it, Cong. Heath Shuler (D-NC) (a former Washington Redskins quarterback pictured here), Cong. Larry Kissell (D-NC) and Cong. Mike McIntyre (D-NC) faced the scorn of constituents who helped elect them to The Hill.

Ed Morris of Franklin, NC, who was interviewed by NPR, lives in Shuler's district and he has been among the strongest proponents of the bill nationally, criticized the former football star in "The Ashville Citizen-Times" (Asheville, NC, newspaper):

"It may even cost him his job," Morris said. "But if he can save one life, it's a moral responsibility."

Kissell, who represents the area around Kannapolis-the late NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt's hometwon, was also criticized for his 'no' vote by area Democratic activist Michael Lawson who told "The Washington Post" in a December article that 'we sent Mr. Smith to Washington, only to realize he wasn't Mr.Smith.'

But, Tom Perriello (D-Va, pictured) did the brave political, moral thing and voted for the health care bill. Perriello, who resides in Charlottesville when not in Congress, said he had read letters of support from residents and hopspitals in Martinsville, Danville and Charlottesville.

Though he faces tough competition from a current field of seven Republican challengers, including Feda Morton a biology teacher and conservative activist with no prior political experience from rural Fluvanna County, Perriello told "The Daily Progress" (Charlottesville newspaper) that there was only one clear option:

"At the end of the day, it comes down to the dollars and cents at the kitchen table," Perriello said. "Doing nothing is the surest way to ensure that we're moving in the wrong direction."

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