An influential House progressive says he's less likely to vote for the final healthcare reform bill now that the White House has incorporated Republican ideas -- which could indicate a serious problem is brewing among liberals as Democratic leaders try to figure out a way to finish work on the legislation.
"As I weigh it, I think -- for me -- a 'no' vote is something that I continue to lean toward," Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., the co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told Salon in a brief interview off the House floor Wednesday. "Especially the last additions -- that was kind of a slap in the face for all of us who fought for the public option."
President Obama unveiled what aides billed as his final pitch for healthcare reform on Wednesday afternoon, adding four Republican priorities to the plan after last week's summit -- additional tort reform, increased health savings accounts (where taxpayers can shelter income to help them carry high-deductible insurance coverage), higher Medicaid reimbursements for doctors and "undercover patients" to investigate fraud. The HSAs, in particular, could rankle progressives.
That provision "was, when we were in the minority, something that we fought tooth and nail to keep out [of legislation]," Grijalva said. "I find that ironic -- something that we had fought to keep out, and indeed were successful, gets back in as part of reconciliation. And a public option that enjoys great support in the House and up to 30 senators gets left out. That's something I just don't understand."
The progressive caucus probably won't whip its 79 members to vote for or against the healthcare bill, Grijalva said. Two of them -- Rep. Eric Massa, D-N.Y. (who isn't running again in November) and Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio -- voted no on the House version of the bill last fall. But now House Democratic leaders need to rally votes for the Senate's version, which is less palatable to liberals, and also for a separate package of "fixes" to the bill using the budget reconciliation process. The vote counts are in flux, but Democrats need 216 votes to pass the bill. They got 220 last time. Kucinich told reporters Wednesday afternoon he's still voting "no," at least for now.
"I'm pretty certain there's more than just two this time," Grijalva said.