Policy

House Democrats Who Opposed Obamacare Say Trump Never Approached Them

Collin Peterson: “I’d like to work with them, but they have not reached out“

Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson says he voted against the 2010 health care law because he didn’t think it would work. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

“We had no votes from the Democrats. They weren’t going to give us a single vote, so it’s a very difficult thing to do,” lamented President Donald Trump to reporters about 90 minutes after House Speaker Paul D. Ryan canceled the floor vote on the Republicans’ health care bill on March 24. 

But if Trump wanted Democrats, why didn’t he approach those who’d opposed President Barack Obama’s signature health care law in 2010?

Trump and Ryan did not ask for support from the three remaining Democrats of the 34 who voted “no” on the 2010 law: Collin C. Peterson of Minnesota, Daniel Lipinski of Illinois, and Stephen F. Lynch of Massachusetts.

All indicated they would not have supported the GOP bill had it come to a vote. “I’d like to work with them, but they have not reached out at this point,” Peterson said just days before Ryan pulled the GOP bill. 

Peterson is probably the most conservative member of the Democratic caucus. Last fall, Trump carried his rural western Minnesota district with 62 percent of the vote.

Looking back on 2010 health care law, Peterson said, “I didn’t think it would work. Too much government. And in my part of the world, the people I knew, people were not going to tolerate the government telling them what to do, which is what it did.”

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Lipinski voted “no” in 2010 because he thought the law wouldn’t do enough to control health care costs and would allow some funding of abortion, which he opposes. 

Lynch was a “no” in 2010 partly because the law didn’t allow states to create their own public insurance options. A longtime union member, Lynch also opposed the so-called Cadillac tax on high-cost insurance plans offered by some unions.

Like Peterson, Lipinski said before the meltdown of the GOP bill that he had gotten no calls from GOP leadership to seek support or ideas. 

He nonetheless offered an amendment that would have kept the law’s $500,000 cap on the tax deductibility of compensation for health insurance company executives, but the Rules Committee didn’t consider it.

Recalling the 2010 debate, Lipinski said, “At that time, a lot of people said because it was passed only with Democratic votes that it would be much more difficult to have this become generally accepted by the American public … and I think that has borne out to be true.”

“Unfortunately, the Republicans seemed not to have learned from what happened with the ACA,” he added, referring to the 2010 law by its acronym.

Of the 34 Democrats who voted against the 2010 law, 17 were defeated later that year and 31 of them are gone now, though some left the House voluntarily.

Of course, voting yea had risks as well: 34 House Democrats who voted for the bill lost to Republican challengers in the 2010 elections.

Democrats are hoping to reap a similar bounty in 2018 and are already criticizing Republicans who voted to repeal the 2010 health care law in committee — the GOP bill went through the Energy and Commerce, Ways and Means, Budget and Rules panels before it imploded — as well as those who stated their intent to vote for it. 

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