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Liveblogging the Kucinich Announcement: Flips to “Yes” on Health Care Bill, Appears to Get Nothing in Return

Not so much... (photo 2007, courtesy of CAPAF)

It’s available at C-SPAN (CSPAN 3 on TV) if you want to follow along. Rep. Dennis Kucinich will announce his position on the health care bill within moments.

Incidentally, since my last whip count, Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick of Arizona decided to support the health care bill, putting her in the Yes column. She represents the 207th Yes or lean Yes vote, according to my count. Kucinich, if he decided to change his vote and support the bill, would be 208, putting the Democrats 8 votes from passage.

Chris Bowers has a good piece about the implications of Kucinich switching his vote, which has been rumored. I don’t know why he would hold this press conference otherwise, actually, but Dennis doesn’t exactly play by the rules, so I guess anything’s possible.

…OK, here it is. Each generation has had to decide how to provide health care to our nation. I believe health care is a civil right. We’ve always seen resistance. I’ve spent my life striving for health care. I lived in 21 different places growing up, including a couple cars. I’ve struggled with Krohn’s disease most of my adult life. I’ve learned of the benefits of taking charge of my own health care. I’ve had access to the best practitioners, and I’ve received the benefits. Health and health care is personal.

…Some believe health care is a privilege based on ability to pay. Obama is attempting to open health care to 30 million people within a for-profit health care system. Others believe that health care is a right, and should be non-profit. I expanded the health care debate beyond a for-profit system. The first version of health care bill made the bill worth supporting in committee. I joined Progressive Caucus in saying I wouldn’t support without a public option or an ERISA waiver for single payer.

Some said I would cast deciding vote. President’s visit to my district underscored the urgency. I have taken this fight further than many in Congress cared to carry it.

OH-10 district has suffered under a struggling economy. I take my responsibility personally. In the past week, it’s become clear that the vote on the final health care bill will be close. I take this vote seriously. I’m quite aware of the historic flight that has taken decades. I’ve seen the political and financial pressure against taking this minimal step. I know I have to make a decision on the bill as it is. My criticism of the legislation has been well-reported. I do not retract those criticisms. They stand as legitimate and cautionary. I have doubts about the bill. It is not a step toward anything I supported. However, after careful discussions with the President, the Speaker, I have decided to cast a vote in favor of the legislation. If my vote is to be counted, let it count now in passage of the bill, hopefully in the direction of comprehensive reform.

CommunityThe Bullpen

Liveblogging the Kucinich Announcement – Supports HC Bill

It’s available at C-SPAN if you want to follow along. Rep. Dennis Kucinich will announce his position on the health care bill within moments.

Incidentally, since my last whip count, Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick of Arizona decided to support the health care bill, putting her in the Yes column. She represents the 207th Yes or lean Yes vote, according to my count. Kucinich, if he decided to change his vote and support the bill, would be 208, putting the Democrats 8 votes from passage.

Chris Bowers has a good piece about the implications of Kucinich switching his vote, which has been rumored. I don’t know why he would hold this press conference otherwise, actually, but Dennis doesn’t exactly play by the rules, so I guess anything’s possible.

…OK, here it is. Each generation has had to decide how to provide health care to our nation. I believe health care is a civil right. We’ve always seen resistance. I’ve spent my life striving for health care. I lived in 21 different places growing up, including a couple cars. I’ve struggled with Krohn’s disease most of my adult life. I’ve learned of the benefits of taking charge of my own health care. I’ve had access to the best practitioners, and I’ve received the benefits. Health and health care is personal.

…Some believe health care is a privilege based on ability to pay. Obama is attempting to open health care to 30 million people within a for-profit health care system. Others believe that health care is a right, and should be non-profit. I expanded the health care debate beyond a for-profit system. The first version of health care bill made the bill worth supporting in committee. I joined Progressive Caucus in saying I wouldn’t support without a public option or an ERISA waiver for single payer.

Some said I would cast deciding vote. President’s visit to my district underscored the urgency. I have taken this fight further than many in Congress cared to carry it.

OH-10 district has suffered under a struggling economy. I take my responsibility personally. In the past week, it’s become clear that the vote on the final health care bill will be close. I take this vote seriously. I’m quite aware of the historic flight that has taken decades. I’ve seen the political and financial pressure against taking this minimal step. I know I have to make a decision on the bill as it is. My criticism of the legislation has been well-reported. I do not retract those criticisms. They stand as legitimate and cautionary. I have doubts about the bill. It is not a step toward anything I supported. However, after careful discussions with the President, the Speaker, I have decided to cast a vote in favor of the legislation. If my vote is to be counted, let it count now in passage of the bill, hopefully in the direction of comprehensive reform.

Health care debate has been hampered by fear and myths. The President clearly does not advocate socialism or a government takeover of health care. This fear has infected our politics, our economics and our international relations.

Thanks to those who supported me personally and politically as I struggled with this decision. I hope they’ll still support me. I will continue to fight for the single payer movement. I’ve taken a detour in supporting this bill, but I know the destination, I will continue to lead.

Taking questions now:

Kucinich has had four separate meetings with the President. He said what he felt was at stake. I shared my concern with the legislation. Can’t say there was anything new. But the moment of decision and what he felt was at stake and the hope to make any change down the road gave me more to think about. I went into that last meeting with the desire to listen to what he had to say. We forget to talk to each other in Washington. He hasn’t changed my mind about where health care ought to go, but this is about the bill.

…I understand that the things I want in this bill are unlikely to be in this bill. I have to make this decision on the bill as it is.

…When I got the invite on AF1 with a record of not supporting the Administration on a number of policy issues, I thought the proper attire was a parachute. But I wanted to listen to what he had to say. The previous meeting was at the White House. I was there with a bunch of people who supported the bill. I left it with a sense of compassion for our President and what he’s going through with this. Regardless of anyone’s position, we have to be compassionate towards those called upon to make decisions for this nation. While I have disagreements, I’ve made a decision.

…Obama committed to continue to work with me, but he made no specific commitments. Basically, he said this is the bill. I’ll continue to work with him down the road, because this is certainly not going to be the end of it. There are other areas of concern that I have with respect to health care. Americans make choices every day that adversely affects their health – diet and nutrition. I know from my own experience.

…If I can vote for this bill, there are not many people who shouldn’t be able to support it.

…Every criticism that I made, and you can go to whatever search engine you use and pull up dozens of them. I maintain that the bill is flawed. It’s not the bill that I want. Am I going to rest on my philosophical position? No, there’s a moment of decision you have to make. The criticisms I made, I will not retract them.

…I hear from my constituents a real desire for the President to succeed. I’ve been bothered by the attempts to delegitimize his Presidency. I’ve had serious problems with his Administration. But this is a defining moment to see if we’ll move off of square one on health care. So I have flaws with the bill, but I’ve decided to support it.

…I have taken the debate farther than anybody else who help my positions on single-payer. There was no Nebraska or Louisiana-type deal. This wasn’t about the kind of dealmaking that is essentially self-defeating toward the goal. I raised objections to those aspects in the bill. I’m taking a more historic, long-term view. I’m looking at how to move the country forward. I reserve the right to disagree on the elements in this.

…I let the President know just now. I’ve not formally contacted the White House. This isn’t a back-and-forth that was worked out. They asked me to support the bill.

…My reputation is one that I don’t buckle under pressure. I’ve taken some positions that most people wouldn’t want to take. This isn’t about left or right. I approach this based on what I feel is right for my constituents. CQ has me at 161 on the liberal-conservative index. This is one moment in time that we need to keep moving and advancing from.

…The President and I only talked about health care. We had a debate about Afghanistan, but the decision has been made.

…I don’t like much of anything about this process. If you’re looking for someone to bless this process, you’re looking at the wrong person. But we have to be very careful that the potential of the Presidency not be destroyed by this debate. And even though I have many differences on this policy, there’s something much bigger on this debate for America.

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David Dayen

David Dayen