Dennis Kucinich, Democratic Congressman from Ohio and champion of the public option, didn’t make his decision to vote for the health care bill in a meeting on Air Force One. As he told Esquire’s Mark Warren, he made it sitting in his favorite quiet spot in the Capitol rotunda because, although he hated that the new plan was based on the predatory for-profit system already in place, he saw it as a pivotal moment in U.S. history and because, given the poisoned distorted debate over the bill, he it as the last chance in a generation to move forward on health reform.
My decision came last Tuesday morning. There’s a place where I go in the Capitol, just to kind of reflect – before I have to make very important decisions. It’s in the rotunda – right next to Lincoln’s statue. It’s just a bench. And I went over there early Tuesday morning, about seven in the morning when the sun was just coming up, and no one else was around – there wasn’t a sound in the Capitol at that moment in the morning. And I just sat down there in a quiet place and thought about this decision. And that’s literally where I made up my mind that, notwithstanding how much there was in the bill that I didn’t like, that I had a higher responsibility to my constituents, to the nation, to my president and his presidency, to step forward and say, “We must pass this bill. And we must use this bill as an opening toward a renewed effort for a more comprehensive approach to health care reform.”
This was a particularly hard decision because the private insurance model is something that I don’t support. As I’ve said before, I don’t take back any of the criticisms I’ve made of the bill. This is reform within the context of a for-profit system. And the for-profit system has been quite predatory – it makes money for not providing health care. Now, the reforms in this bill may provide some relief from that impulse. But, nevertheless, I have my work cut out for me now in continuing the effort toward a much broader approach to health care reform, which would include attention to diet, nutrition, complementary alternative medicine, and empowering states to move forward with single-payer.
And so as we came closer, and it appeared that I would be in a pivotal position, I realized that the moment required me to look at this in the broadest terms possible. To look at this in terms of the long-term impact on my constituents, of the moment in history in which we now stand, of the impact on the country, of the impact on the Obama presidency, on the impact on the president personally. I had to think about all of this. I couldn’t just say, “Well here’s my position: I’m for single-payer, and this isn’t single-payer, so I’m going to defeat the bill.”
Last year, seventy-seven members of Congress agreed that if the bill didn’t have a public option, they were going to vote against it. And there were only two members who had kept that pledge when it was voted on the first time in the House. And I was one of them. And the other one’s no longer in Congress. So I basically was the last man standing here. So I’m aware of the debate that took place in favor of the bill. My concern was that this bill was hermetically sealed to admit no opening toward a not-for-profit system, no competition from the public sector with the private insurers. Which makes the claims of a government takeover such a joke. You know, those who claim that this is socialism probably don’t know anything about socialism – or capitalism.