When former lawmakers run for office, they can expect their legislative records to be examined with a fine-toothed comb. Votes they may have long since forgotten can unwittingly become the centerpiece of their campaigns. Such is the case with a couple of committee votes cast by former Congressman Mike Ross back in 2009.
I have written about one of the votes previously. Ross cast a somewhat reluctant vote to advance the health care reform debate in June of 2009 along with a block of fellow Blue Dog Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Needless to say, Ross is not pleased with Republicans highlighting that vote.
"Asa Hutchinson is out there, lying about me, lying about my record, telling folks that I’m responsible for Obamacare because of some kind of committee vote," Ross told a Northwest Arkansas television station last month.
Ross contends that vote does not matter since that version of health care reform — H.R. 3200 — did not become law. Instead the Senate version — H.R. 3962 — eventually was the bill that became Obamacare.
But a second vote in committee also came up recently — a vote against an amendment from Rep. Cliff Stearns of Florida that would have allowed individuals to keep their health insurance plans if they liked the plan. The vote against is timely as millions of Americans get cancellation notices from their health insurance companies and figuring out that President Obama’s promise that you get to keep your health care plan was an empty one.
"We call on Mike Ross today to directly answer Arkansans and Americans as a whole as to why he opposed their ability to keep their health-care insurance. While there were a myriad of votes occurring with healthcare reform, today we ask about this vote specifically and hope Mike Ross will give the voters a straight answer," said Arkansas GOP chairman Doyle Webb in a press release highlighting Ross’ vote.
But again the Ross Campaign is having none of that.
"The Republican Party of Arkansas is referencing an amendment to a bill that died and never became law," said Ross campaign spokesman Brad Howard. "So far in this campaign, Ross’ opponents have used lies, distortions, dirty tricks and doctored videos to smear Ross’ consistent opposition to Obamacare. The truth is Mike Ross allowed Americans to keep their health insurance by consistently voting against Obamacare and voting to repeal the law multiple times over."
As is usually the case, the truth lies somewhere in between. While the parliamentary maneuvers did end up causing a bill with a different number to become Obamacare, the bill Ross voted for in committee in July of 2009 was the version the House was advancing at the time. If that bill had not mattered as Ross now claims, there would not have been the intense debate and pressure put on Ross to vote for the bill. He was the leader of a small group of Blue Dogs that eventually signed on after receiving several key concessions. And one of these concessions was not a provision guaranteeing that individual can keep their health insurance, which is why he had to vote against that in committee.
However, one of the concessions was a delay in any vote until after the August recess. During the heated town hall meetings, Ross came to see that he could not support Obamacare. After that, he consistently voted against the bill and even voted for repeal. However, the turnaround does not erase the record.
Jason Tolbert is an accountant and conservative political blogger. His blog — The Tolbert Report — is linked at ArkansasNews.com. His e-mail is jason@TolbertReport.com.