WASHINGTON — Rep. Collin Peterson’s office today clarified his weekend comments printed in the Marshall Independent that suggested he would now support the health care reform legislation he voted against last week.
Peterson’s comments came at a DFL fundraiser in Morton, where he spoke alongside such gubernatorial candidates as R.T. Rybak, Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Matt Entenza and Paul Thissen.
Here’s the relevant text:
“I’m aware people are very much disappointed in my vote,” Peterson said, citing thousands of phone calls and e-mails at his office. “There are reasons for it,” although he said it would take more time than he had to explain them all. Now that it has passed, however, Peterson said, “I will support it, and I will work to make this work.”
Peterson’s comment touched off a speedy response from Republicans, with state party Chairman Tony Sutton calling it the “latest stick in the eye to his constituents.” National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Tom Erickson – himself a native of Peterson’s 7th District — said it had to be “some sort of world record” for flip-flopping.
Peterson’s office said that’s not remotely the case.
“All he’s saying is it’s done, now we’ve got to figure out how to make this work because it’s the law of the land now,” said Mark Brownell, Peterson’s chief of staff. “What he was saying is what he’s been saying, is that this is now the law of the land and our obligation now is make sure it’s the best it can be for the 7th District.”
The recently approved health reform law is full of large provisions that will need to be ironed out by federal regulators. Geographic disparity in Medicare reimbursement rates is a big one, as is a quality-of-care index to be added to the reimbursement formula.
The specifics will be decided in the coming years by the Department of Health and Human Services. Lawmakers and lobbyists from both sides of the aisle have said the behind-the-scenes battles over how that will work will be just as big as the battles over what language would make it into the final bill.
Brownell’s explanation mirrors Peterson’s own statement, sent out just after he voted against the final health care bill in the House. The point there was that he would work on changing how the bill is implemented, rather than seeking to repeal it (a chore that, as I’ve explained previously in this space, will be mathematically impossible for the next few years and highly improbable after that).
“As the Administration begins putting these reforms in place I will continue working to fix the problems I’ve mentioned and to ensure that everyone in the 7th District has access to affordable health care,” Peterson said. “I will work to hold the Administration accountable and I will keep working to make the changes we need in order for these new policies and health care delivery systems to be workable in rural areas.”
One thing Peterson’s office and Republicans agree on is that the new health care law is opposed by most in his 7th District. Peterson told House leaders that the bill was unpopular in his district and that he wouldn’t be supporting it months ago.
“I think they understood that, in his district, this was not necessarily great legislation,” Brown said.
In fact, Peterson was such a solid no vote that health care backers like Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum didn’t spend much energy trying to convince their colleague otherwise.
“Collin’s a very strong-willed person,” Ellison told me hours before the final vote. “I don’t think it would be much use of my time to try and get him to do something he doesn’t want to do. I don’t even bring it up with him, because I guarantee you he has nine reasons he can cite at the drop of a hat why he’s not doing it, so he’s not doing it, and that’s why I’m glad we have 216 votes to do it.”