St. Louis Public Radio News
4:29 pm
Mon March 22, 2010

Only one Missouri Democrat breaks ranks on health care vote

St. Louis – Missouri lawmakers generally followed their party's leadership Sunday as Congress passed landmark health care legislation.

The House used a procedure known as reconciliation to pass the Senate bill and a package of changes separately. The maneuver led many Republicans to accuse Democrats of ramming the measure through.

Republican Todd Akin of suburban St. Louis calls the measure a "government take-over" that will get between doctors and patients.

"If you have an insurance company getting between you and your doctor you have some chance of getting a different insurance company," Akin said. "But when it's the entire federal government getting between you and your doctor, what the federal government will have to do to manage costs is they will create long waiting lines."

St. Louis Democrat Russ Carnahan says the bill is good policy that'll give people the coverage they need.

"It's what's needed right now to get people the coverage they need, to bring down costs," Carnahan said.

Western Missouri Democrat Ike Skelton was the only lawmaker from Missouri to break ranks with his party. He cited concerns about the impact on rural health care.

In the Metro East, a deal between the White House and anti-abortion Democrats brought around Congressman Jerry Costello.

Costello planned to vote no on the measure until late Sunday afternoon, when President Obama agreed to sign an executive order stating that federal funds could not be used for abortion. The president had repeated that statement for weeks, but Costello and a half dozen other Democrats led by Michigan's Bart Stupak pressed him to put it on paper.

An executive order does not have the force of law, but there are other protections in the bill, Costello said.

"In additon to the executive order, in addition to a colloquy that Stupak had on the floor of the House with the manager of the bill clarifying that the Congressional intent is for the Hyde amendment to apply, there will be another piece of legislation where it will be stated again," he said. Costello was also persuaded by data from the Congressional Budget Office showing that the legislation will cut the deficit by $140 billion over 10 years.

The order did not convince Chicago Democrat Dan Lipinski. He was the only Illinois Congressman to break party lines in the Sunday vote.