Saratoga County

Murphy defends health care reform vote as critics pounce

While U.S. Rep. Scott Murphy said his vote on the health care bill will help local residents, Rep


While U.S. Rep. Scott Murphy said his vote on the health care bill will help local residents, Republicans have seized on the vote as proof Murphy isn’t the centrist he claims to be.

“There’s nothing centrist about that vote. It’s a massive government takeover of the health care industry,” said Alex Carey, spokesman for the Republican Party of New York State.

“There’s a lot of angst. There’s a lot of anti-incumbency.”

In the last few weeks, Murphy, D-Glens Falls, has faced pressure from groups asking him to vote for the bill, which he calls fiscally conservative.

Murphy cited the Congressional Budget Office report that said the bill would reduce the deficit by $1.3 trillion over the next 20 years.

“This bill is truly fiscally conservative. It’s the largest deficit reduction measure passed in more than a decade,” Murphy said.

“The president’s health care reform bill will change our fundamentally flawed health care system, expanding care to millions of Americans and slowing the out-of-control growth in costs that is bankrupting our families and small businesses,” he said.

The bill, which is expected to be signed into law as early as today, would extend health insurance coverage to 32 million uninsured Americans, prohibit insurers from denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions, cut deficits and require most Americans to buy insurance.

Murphy’s vote for the new bill but against the House version in November could allow the incumbent to sell himself to voters on both sides, said Skidmore College government professor Ron Seyb.

“Politically, it kind of allows him to have it both ways,” Seyb said. “I think in some ways, voting ‘no’ and then being able to vote ‘yes’ actually works to his advantage.”

Murphy explained his original “no” vote because he said the bill would not do enough to lower health care costs.

“His objections [to the first bill] really were in terms of the adverse impact it would have on this district,” Seyb said. “Obviously, those concerns have been allayed in the Senate bill.”

On the other hand, Murphy’s opponents can attack him as being “bought” by lobbyists when he voted for the second bill, Seyb said.

That’s what the Republicans are already saying.

“Obviously, President Obama got to him in all of his personal lobbying,” Carey said, citing deals that were struck to get certain congressmen on board with the bill. “There shouldn’t be this sort of lobbying and deal-making when there’s a bill that will affect this many Americans.”

Both Republicans still in the race to get the GOP nomination and face Murphy this fall predict the vote will be Murphy’s downfall.

“I still believe we can get America back on track again, but our job just got harder,” said Chris Gibson of Kinderhook, a 45-year-old retired Army colonel. “The voters will hold Mr. Murphy accountable for this inexplicable reversal in positions.”

Gibson noted the bill adds more taxes to health insurance companies and medical device manufacturers.

“We’re going to see our premiums rise, and for our small business owners, you’re going to see more stress.”

Gibson would like to see legislation focus instead on enhancing competition among major insurance companies and tort reform to lower the allowable amount of legal judgments.

Patrick Ziegler, 37, a Ballston Republican committeeman who works as an independent insurance agent and college planner, said everyone he knows opposes the sweeping health care reform passed on Sunday.

“We can’t simply control health insurance by creating a new federal program,” Ziegler said. “If these programs are going to be created at all, they should be done at the local and state level.”

No matter what happens in November and the months leading up to it, one thing is for sure — the health care debate will continue to be heated.

“I think it’ll be an important issue in the campaign,” Seyb said, adding it will likely be cited more than any other vote Murphy took in his year in office.

Voters have flooded the state GOP office opposing the bill.

“We’ve had increased interest in people calling the party and asking who is going to run in these districts,” Carey said, citing the 20th as one of several congressional districts where voters are unhappy with their Democratic lawmakers.

The National Republican Congressional Committee plans to air TV ads telling people how Murphy voted for the health care bill.

“The timeline isn’t set, but we are prepared to run ads to make sure voters know that Scott Murphy sold them out and ignored their concerns,” said Tory Mazzola, NRCC spokesman.

Despite the national atmosphere favoring Republicans, the GOP still faces a steep climb until November, some political insiders said.

Murphy holds an incumbent advantage, while the GOP hasn’t yet chosen a candidate, although that is likely to change in the next week or two. The Republican then has to start raising campaign funds, which Murphy has been doing for 2010 since he took office last spring.

Nationally, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee also has significantly more money — $20 million — than the National Republican Congressional Committee’s $6.1 million.

One or both of the parties could give money to the 20th congressional district candidates if the seat is viewed as an important one to win.

A Siena Research Institute poll taken in September showed 36 percent of New York voters supported Obama’s bill, while 21 percent opposed it and 43 percent said they needed more information.

Seyb said Americans are still generally confused about what the bill contains and aren’t as polarized as activists on either side.

“I think most people are still sort of wondering what the impact is going to be on them, on their families,” the Skidmore professor said. “I actually think many voters are still unsure what they think about the bill, quite frankly.”

It may take years to see the full impact of the bill, including the increased Medicaid caseload that states will have to absorb, he said.

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