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Peterson’s Obamacare voting record: no more ‘ammunition’ for GOP

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson says his votes for GOP Obamacare bills are only “somewhat” about what’s in them.

Rep. Collin Peterson has sided with the GOP on half of the 50-some Obamacare bills they’ve voted on over the last three years, including all of them since October.
REUTERS/Mike Theiler

WASHINGTON — As Republicans are quick to remind, U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, one of 34 Democrats to oppose the Affordable Care Act in 2010, has voted against every full repeal bill the House has considered since the GOP took control in 2011.

He has, however, sided with the party on half of the 50-some Obamacare bills they’ve voted on over the last three years, including all of them since October.

Not that he’s keeping track. In fact, Peterson said his votes since last fall are only “somewhat” related to what the GOP is actually bringing up.

“Sometimes it’s bills that aren’t going any place, and I’m not going to give them ammunition to shoot at me, you know,” he said. “A few of us sit there and say, we’re not going to give them a free vote. If we thought it was going to actually do something, we might pay more attention to it. All of it’s political.”

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After Peterson announced his decision to run for re-election, national Republicans put up an ad hitting him for opposing GOP efforts to repeal the bill wholesale, a vote they’ve taken — and Peterson has opposed — three times since 2011.

But Peterson’s record on GOP-led Obamacare votes over the last three years reflects his still-dim opinion of the law as a whole. And while he doesn’t have anything nice to say about how President Obama or Democrats are handling the law’s roll-out, he said he’s not going to back a GOP repeal bill unless it maintains the several parts of the law he does like, something he acknowledges is unlikely to ever happen.

A full repeal bill “repeals pre-existing conditions, it repeals all the good stuff, kids on their parents’ policies, the Medicare donut hole … by doing that, you’re getting rid of the good stuff,” he said. “So why are we doing that?”

Peterson voting record

Among the nine Minnesotans to serve in the U.S. House over the last two Congresses, Peterson’s record on Obamacare-related votes is easily the most spotted.

On 56 Obamacare bills taken up since 2011 (a list compiled from New York Times and Washington Post records), Peterson has voted for half of them, including every bill the GOP has introduced since the law kicked in last October. He has sided with Republicans on many of their more ceremonial messaging bills (repealing the employer and individual mandates, blocking funding for abortions under the law, repealing the medical device tax etc.), and he’s been a fairly reliable “yes” vote on what you could call the “deals,” the seven bills undoing parts of the ACA that have become law.

Many of his “no” votes have come on larger legislation the GOP has used as vehicles for Obamacare items, such as short-term funding bills or those undoing sequestration cuts. He sides with Democrats on the GOP’s budget resolutions and voted with them on all but one of the House’s pre-shutdown bills last fall tying government funding to Obamacare-repeal measures, and he has voted to protect parts of the law he likes, such as funding for state-based exchanges.

And, of course, he’s voted against every bill looking to repeal the entire law.

What he likes

Peterson said he wouldn’t take back his 2010 vote against the ACA, something he opposed for a litany of reasons: it didn’t fix geographic Medicare reimbursement disparities, the Congressional Budget Office said it would raise costs, he disliked the bill’s insurance coverage mandates and it would cut from Medicare to pay for part of the whole package.

But there were parts of the law he liked, such as ending pre-existing condition bans and setting up state-based insurance exchanges. (“Of course, they screwed that up, too,” he said of the roll-out).

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As for what should be done about the law right now, Peterson said he doesn’t have an answer. He said it’s going to take either congressional Republicans or President Obama reaching out to the other to come to some kind of compromise.

Not that he sees that happening. And not that he thinks either side is doing it right when it comes to the health care law. “People in my district are sick and tired” of the GOP’s repeal strategy, he said. And the Obama administration’s tactic of delaying portions of the law does more harm than good, he added.

“What the White House is doing, the Republicans are for. But because they’re doing it unilaterally, the Republicans attack them,” he said. “Each side is as bad as the other, that’s how I feel about it.”

But Peterson — who’s not on any of the relevant committee dealing with the law — said he’s not ready to propose any changes himself, either.

“If they would say, ‘OK we’re going to put you there and give you a lot of say about how this gets done,’ well then, I’d do it,” he said. “But I don’t think it’s going to happen.”

Republicans using the repeal votes against him

Even so, Republicans are looking to use the full repeal votes against him, at least so far.

Days after Peterson announced he would seek re-election, the National Republican Congressional Committee launched an ad featuring a small business owner hitting him for his opposition to the repeal measures. 

Sen. Torrey Westrom

In a statement, Peterson’s opponent, state Sen. Torrey Westrom, who secured the GOP’s endorsement in the race over the weekend, said he had “failed the hard working families, farmers and small business owners of rural Minnesota” by voting against those repeal bills.

“When elected this November, I will take our shared rural values to Washington in order to get our great nation back on track — starting with the fight to repeal Obamacare and, just as importantly, replacing it with patient-centered health care reforms,” Westrom said.

Republicans are banking on Obamacare dragging down Democrats in November, heartened by polls showing approval ratings that have sagged for both the law and President Obama since the roll-out started last fall.

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Peterson, though, said he doesn’t see health care making too much of an impact, at least on his race — he said his 2010 vote against the ACA should firewall him from any political headaches the law might cause Democrats.

But he said health care politics stands to hurt both Republicans and Democrats with voters this fall.

“I think it does play into the thing where everybody hates us,” he said. “It does add to that. And that’s on either side.”

Devin Henry can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @dhenry.

Peterson’s Obamacare voting record

Peterson voted for…

2/18/11HR 1 AmendmentProhibit funding for IRS to “implement or enforce provisions of the law related to the reporting of health insurance coverage.”
3/3/11HR 4*Repeal new 1099 reporting requirement
4/13/11HR 1217Repeal the law’s Prevention and Public Health Fund
4/14/11HR 1473*CR (Repeals an ACA voucher program, reduced funding for new health insurance Co-ops)
8/1/11S 365*Budget Control Act (Exposes some ACA programs to cuts)
10/13/11HR 358No funding for abortions under ACA
11/16/11HR 674*Include Social Security benefits to determine ACA subsidy eligibility
12/16/11HR 2055*Budget bill. Cuts $400 million in Co-op funds and $10 million in funds for the Independent Payment Advisory Board
2/1/12HR 1173Repeal CLASS Act (Administration had already delayed implementation)
3/22/12HR 5Repeal IPAB
4/27/12HR 4628Extend student loan interest rate by repealing Prevention Fund
6/7/12HR 436Repeal Medical Device Tax
6/29/12HR 4248*Highway Funding Bill (Reduces Medicaid formula under ACA)
7/17/13HR 2667Delay Employer Mandate (Administration had already implemented)
7/17/13HR 2886Delay Individual Mandate
8/2/13HR 2009Prevent IRS from implementing ACA
9/12/13HR 2775Overhauls income verification system
10/1/13H Res 368Shutdown: called for a conference committee on a budget bill, reaffirms votes on ACA
10/17/13HR 2775*Bill ending shutdown; requires improved income verification systems for exchanges
11/15/13HR 3350Allows individuals to keep insurance plans
1/10/14HR 3811Notify consumers if there is a security breach on
1/16/14HR 3362Requires the administration provide weekly reports on metrics to lawmakers, officials
1/28/14HR 7Prohibit federal funding for abortions under ACA
3/5/14HR 4118Delays Individual Mandate for one year
3/11/14HR 3979Makes it so volunteer firefighters are not counted under law’s “shared responsibility requirement.”
3/11/14HR 3474Makes veterans covered by Tricare exempt under law’s employer mandate
3/12/14HR 1814Provides certain religious exemptions to ACA
3/14/14HR 4015Delays Individual Mandate for five years (Attached to other provisions)
Bills marked with an asterisk(*) became law. “CR” stands for “continuing resolution.”

But he voted against…

1/19/11HR 2Full repeal
2/18/11HR 1 AmendmentProhibit funding for Departments of HHS and Labor to implement law
2/18/11HR 1 AmendmentProhibit funding for implementing law
2/18/11HR 1 AmendmentProhibit funding to federal employees implementing the law
2/18/11HR 1 AmendmentProhibit funding for implementing exchanges
2/18/11HR 1 AmendmentProhibit funding for implementing ACA’s “Medical Loss Ratio”
2/19/11HR 1 AmendmentProhibit funding for Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight
2/19/11HR 1 AmendmentProhibit funding “to specify or define, through regulations, guidelines, or otherwise, essential benefits as required” in the law.
2/19/11HR 1Cut spending to 2008 levels, block ACA funding
4/14/11H Con Res 35Bar funds under HR 1473 for ACA
4/15/11H Con Res 34GOP Budget (Defunds ACA)
5/3/11HR 1213Repeal state exchange funding
5/4/11HR 1214Repeal spending on school-based health centers
5/25/11HR 1216Vote to “change funding for graduate medical education programs from mandatory to discretionary”
12/13/11HR 3630Unemployment Insurance extension includes provisions to “weaken the law’s Prevention Fund.”
2/17/12HR 3630*Payroll tax cut/ UI Extension (ACA cuts included)
3/29/12H Con Res 12GOP Budget (Defunds ACA)
5/10/12HR 5652Replace Defense sequester cuts with ACA repeals
7/11/12HR 6079Full repeal
9/13/12HR 6365Repeal sequester, follow budget on ACA
12/20/12HR 6684Repeal sequester, repeal Prevention Fund
1/1/13HR 8*Fiscal Cliff deal: Repeal CLASS Act, cut funds for Co-ops
3/21/13H Con Res 25GOP Budget (Defunds ACA)
5/16/13HR 45Full repeal
9/20/13H J Res 59CR defunding ACA
9/29/13H J Res 59CR repealing Medical Device Tax
9/29/13H J Res 59CR delaying ACA for one year
9/30/13H J Res 59CR delaying Individual Mandate/repealing subsidies for Congress and staffers
Bills marked with an asterisk(*) became law. “CR” stands for “continuing resolution.”