Health care vote is all about politics, especially in Chip Cravaack’s district

Chip Cravaack
MinnPost/Terry Gydesen
Chip Cravaack

WASHINGTON — It’s rare in politics that both major parties salivate over the same vote because they think it holds a political advantage for them. Today is one of those days.

For freshman Republican Chip Cravaack, today’s vote to fully repeal the health care overhaul law will be his first significant policy vote as a member of Congress. And for him, the decision is easy.

“This is the mission that the people sent me to do, so that’s what I’m going to do,” Cravaack said. Simple as that.

DFL leaders, meanwhile, pounced on his vote before he even cast it, charging that Cravaack is in his first major vote is bowing to Tea Party politics and kowtowing to the insurance lobby.

Minnesota’s votes are all committed. The three Republicans who voted against the bill last year, John Kline, Michele Bachmann and Erik Paulsen will vote for full repeal alongside Cravaack, who ran in part on repeal.

On the Democratic side, Keith Ellison, Betty McCollum and Tim Walz all originally voted for it, and they’ll vote to keep it. Centrist Dem Collin Peterson opposed the bill last year, but has said he’ll oppose a wholesale repeal because it’s simply a political vote.

And it is.

(Update: As expected, the Republican-led House voted Wednesday afternoon, mostly along party lines, to repeal the law.)

Policy-wise, the health reform repeal is about as inconsequential as one can call any bill that will surely sail through the House. That’s because it won’t ever come up in the Senate, and even if it did, it wouldn’t pass. Plus, President Obama would veto it and there aren’t even close to enough votes around to override a veto on this.

But politics isn’t just about policy. It’s about, well, politics. And on that metric, this may be one of the most important and consequential votes cast all year.

A political win-win, maybe
The health-care repeal vote will be seen as a win for both Cravaack and the DFL in the formative stages of the campaign for what is already the Democrats’ top targeted House seat in Minnesota and possibly the entire upper Midwest.

For Cravaack, it’s a chance to tick off a box as promise kept. DFLers, meanwhile, get a vote that backs up almost certain campaign ads blasting Cravaack for any and all things he just voted to repeal.

DFL chairman Brian Melendez gave what could be a campaign ad preview Wednesday in an op-ed for the Duluth News Tribune, the largest newspaper in Cravaack’s 8th District.

“Cravaack’s vote would deny coverage to children with existing conditions, cancel coverage when people get sick and limit the amount of care Minnesotans can receive — even if they need it,” Melendez charged.

And Cravaack had a response ready.

“This is such a bad bill on so many fronts that we have to repeal it right away,” Cravaack said. “There are good parts to the bill, but they’re buried so deep we can’t doggone get to them.”

That debate, the one Cravaack and Melendez are engaged in already, will undoubtedly be playing out in the 63 seats Republicans won from Democrats that the Dems hope to take back in 2012 — and with them, control of the House.

Right now, each side sees a win. In November 2012, only one side will.

Repeal, then replace
Republicans have been mindful since even before the health reform bill passed that it wouldn’t get repealed in one single vote — and that it would be mathematically impossible to do it in the next few years.

That’s why they came to this battle equipped with a Plan B.

“We aren’t going to just check the box off and say we had one vote and we’re going to move on to other topics,” Bachmann said Tuesday at a press conference outside the Capitol. “We’re staying full square behind the repeal of Obamacare and our commitment to defund it moving forward.”

“This is a deal they had to do because they made a campaign promise,” Peterson said of the GOP’s wholesale repeal efforts. “I’m not sure it’s the end of the world, they’ll do it and they’ll pass it and that’ll be the end of it — it won’t go anyplace in the Senate.

“Then hopefully they’ll go to a bill on a piecemeal basis, because if it does get fixed that’s how it’s going to get fixed.”

If today’s vote is all politics, Thursday’s vote — the Plan B — actually has a chance at fomenting actual policy. That’s when Republicans offer a measure to direct a set of committees, including the Education and the Workforce panel headed by Kline, to produce new legislation to replace the voted-down health reform law.

But serious policy is a topic for Thursday. Today’s all about the politics.

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Comments (11)

  1. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 01/19/2011 - 09:53 am.

    The Republicans stopped health care reform in 1993 with a campaign of manufactured outrage based on misinformation. But it was clear then that the health care system was headed toward trouble.

    Here we are, almost 20 years later. It is even more clear that there are still the same significant problems with health care–access, cost, and cost effectiveness.

    And yet after all that time, the Republican party has not developed a set of coherent policies to address those issues in a meaningful way.

    “Send it to committee”? That was the same outcome 20 years ago.

  2. Submitted by Jackson Cage on 01/19/2011 - 10:03 am.

    Cravaack’s just like the Wizard of Oz. Only they pulled the curtain back a lot sooner in his case.

  3. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 01/19/2011 - 10:14 am.

    The Republicans DO have a “plan B” for health care and they’ve made it abundantly clear over the past many decades.

    In order to continue their continuous project to use our nation’s economic system and government tax and contracting structures to transfer ALL the wealth in our nation from whoever holds it to the top 1/10%, some sacrifices will be necessary.

    After all, are living in abject poverty and slowly starving to death too much to ask for the good of your country?

    As to health care, their solution for all of us who are not in that top 1/10% or useful to that top group is that, as patriotic Americans who care about the well being of all that’s right and good and holy in our country (namely it’s wealthiest citizens) we will simply need to do our patriotic duty to reduce the surplus population when we fall ill; we’ll simply need to do what’s right for those of us in our low station in society, to, as former Representative Grayson so eloquently put it, “Die quickly.”

  4. Submitted by Jeremy Powers on 01/19/2011 - 11:45 am.

    Cravaack should be referred to as “soon-to-be former Representative Chip Cravaack.” I can’t even imagine a gerrymandered district that would allow him to return.

  5. Submitted by Patricia Gundersen on 01/19/2011 - 01:13 pm.

    Chip Cravaack represents Minnesotans AND uses the word doggone in a statement? How embarrassing that we have a hillbilly in Congress. A quote from Forrest Gump in the movie of the same name,
    “Stupid is as stupid does”.

  6. Submitted by Alicia DeMatteo on 01/19/2011 - 01:47 pm.

    So glad the republicans of the house took the time to vote for something that won’t even make it to the senate. Had it not been for this, I would’ve been totally unaware of their position on this “Obamacare” as they call it (funny, because that moniker has such a positive tone to it).

    Really, what will it take for all the posing and pageantry to stop? I’ve seen more substance during the Q&A portion of Miss America.

  7. Submitted by Brian Simon on 01/19/2011 - 01:49 pm.

    The repeal vote may resonate with the GOP base, most particularly with the self-professed ‘tea party’ members, but its hard to see how it will help them retain newly gained seats in swing districts. Perhaps they’re betting on voters’ well-documented habit of forgetting the past.

  8. Submitted by Jean Schiebel on 01/19/2011 - 06:47 pm.

    I understand that Chip Cravaack not only draws
    disability for his sleep apnea but also retirement.

    And now he has the Cadillac of all Health Insurance plans.
    Can you spell h-y-p-o-c-r-i-t-e ??

  9. Submitted by Dennis Ringstad on 01/19/2011 - 08:59 pm.

    I feel sorry for the voters in district 8 who didn’t go temporarily insane and vote this guy in. That goes for all the other Tea Bag elections nationwide. What a hangover this one’s going to be. I can’t believe people have to actually debate these hucksters and sacrifice so many brain cells in the process.

  10. Submitted by John Hoffman on 01/19/2011 - 10:43 pm.

    I think the Republicans should be the first to give up their entitlement of the health care afforded to them through the federal government and purchase it themselves on the private market. Isn’t it ironic for Cravaack, the former Navy pilot, to vote to repeal the new health care law when he has benefited all these years personally with his own health care being paid by the tax payer?

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