Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin left little doubt Thursday about her intentions on health care reform legislation, after Republican charges that she is wavering on the issue.
Herseth Sandlin, D-S.D., confirmed during a telephone conference call with reporters that she won’t vote for the U.S. Senate version of health care reform, just as she didn’t vote for an earlier version approved by the House of Representatives.
She also said she won’t vote for another piece of legislation being developed by President Barack Obama to answer some concerns about the existing Senate bill if it comes to the House by way of the reconciliation process in the Senate.
“I will not vote for the Senate bill as is,” she said. “I will not vote for a package of changes that would go through the reconciliation process.”
It was another emphatic denunciation by Herseth Sandlin of the reconciliation process, which allows passage of the legislation through a simple majority. That controversial method would allow Senate Democratic leadership to bypass an otherwise required 60-vote super majority needed to overcome a filibuster. And it also was a clear rejection of the Senate version of health care reform, approved when Democrats still had the 60 votes needed for a super majority.
That changed when Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., took the seat formerly held by longtime Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy. And it pushed Obama and the Democrats to turn to reconciliation.
Even though House approval needs only a simple majority, Herseth Sandlin opposes that alternative in the Senate, where rules are different.
“I don’t support using reconciliation,” she said.
Herseth Sandlin says reconciliation may be acceptable for some issues, but on one with the wide-reaching implications of health care reform, the regular Senate process shouldn’t be circumvented to make it easier to win approval.
Her position on that issue seemed to clarify and strengthen from Wednesday’s comments, when she told the Journal that she was not sure how she would vote on the president’s proposal. Herseth Sandlin said she was encouraged that the president was addressing concerns about the Senate version of health care reform. Those included malpractice suits, fraudulent medical payments, health care tax incentives and improved reimbursement rates to health care providers.
Herseth Sandlin said Thursday that “out of fairness,” she wants to see the president’s legislation and the Congressional Budget Office evaluation before judging it on its merits. But she is concerned about failures there, as in the Senate bill, to provide real for health care cost containment.
And beyond the content of the president’s addition, Herseth Sandlin said she can’t support it at all if it arrives in the House by way of Senate reconciliation.
Critics of Herseth Sandlin, including the National Republican Congressional Committee, have accused her of waffling on this issue and showing an inclination to buckle under presidential pressure. She was part of a group of Democrats who joined the president during a reception in the White House Wednesday.
The group included other Democrats who, like Herseth Sandlin, had voted against the House health care reform bill earlier. The Republican congressional committee charged Wednesday that after “arm twisting” at the White House, Herseth Sandlin remained undecided on “supporting Democratic efforts to ram a health care bill through Congress.”
She responded Thursday by clarifying her “no” vote on the Senate bill, and said she would also vote against any presidential addition approved by the Senate through reconciliation.
Contact Kevin Woster at 394-8413 or email@example.com