Staunch House Labor Supporter Hasn’t Made Up Mind on Health Reform

Lindsay Beyerstein

Yesterday, on the eve of the president’s televised healthcare summit, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R‑Va.) released a memo entitled Prospects for House Passage of Health Care under Reconciliation.” Therein, he argued that several Democrats who voted for the House health bill might switch their votes if the bill that passed the Senate were sent to the House. The House bill only passed by 5 votes last time around, so Speaker Nancy Pelosi has little margin for error.

Cantor, who has a vested interest in sowing doubt about the Democrats’ ability to pass health reform, is arguing that Pelosi might not have the votes to get the Senate language through the House. His memo got a lot of play in the media and was often discussed as if it were a serious piece of analysis, as opposed to a polemic. 

Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D‑Ohio), one of organized labor’s staunchest allies in the House, is one of 12 House members whom Cantor identified as potential vote-switchers. However, she is also a vocal pro-lifer who joined forces with Rep. Bart Stupak (D‑Mich) to demand a vote on an amendment to the House health bill to restrict abortion coverage under health reform. The Senate version of the bill is has less strigent restrictions on abortion funding.

Is Kaptur wavering? Or is Cantor just posturing in an attempt to kill reform? In These Times called Kaptur’s office to find out where she stands.

Some background: The White House has indicated that it will try to pass reform through reconciliation if it can’t come to terms with the Republicans. That would require the House to re-pass the same bill that the Senate passed through reconciliation, which is immune from filibusters. For that to happen, the Senate will have to change certain aspects of the bill to make it acceptable to a majority of House members.

Kaptur spokesman Steve Vought told In These Times he didn’t know where Cantor was getting his information. Vought said Kaptur wasn’t going to comment on stuff that isn’t real.” Until Kaptur is presented with a specific piece of legislation, speculation about how she might vote was just chasing butterflies,” he said.

Vought said his office hadn’t even analyzed the Senate’s language on abortion. Vought said that his office pays little attention to the pronouncements of the Senate because the Senate is where things go to die.”

I’m not going to take Eric Cantor’s bait,” Vought said. His job is to herd cats for the Republican side.”

Asked about Kaptur’s reaction to President Obama’s suggested modifications to the Senate’s Cadillac plan tax, Vought said his boss hadn’t analyzed the proposal. (Organized labor has made it clear that the Senate’s proposed excise tax on high-cost health plans is unacceptable.)

In general, Vought said, Kaptur is concerned about federal funding for abortion, but she remains hopeful that health care reform will pass.

Cantor’s pronouncement about Kaptur’s vote appears to be based on some rather self-serving extrapolation from statements Kaptur made in a different political context.

As of today, Kaptur’s office remains pointedly non-committal as to how she might vote. You can read those tea leaves as easily as Eric Cantor. Like most prognosticators, you’ll probably see what you want to see.

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Lindsay Beyerstein is an award-winning investigative journalist and In These Times staff writer who writes the blog Duly Noted. Her stories have appeared in Newsweek, Salon, Slate, The Nation, Ms. Magazine, and other publications. Her photographs have been published in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times’ City Room. She also blogs at The Hillman Blog (http://​www​.hill​man​foun​da​tion​.org/​h​i​l​l​m​a​nblog), a publication of the Sidney Hillman Foundation, a non-profit that honors journalism in the public interest.
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