Rep. Dan Lipinski was the only Illinois Democrat to vote "no" for the historic health reform bill that passed the House Sunday, one of 34 Democrats nationwide to side with Republicans on the issue.
Lipinski had been saying he would vote "no" to reform for many days before this weekend's vote, though the Chicago Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet reports that his vote came as a surprise to many on the Hill:
I'm told that Democratic leaders in Washington and Illinois were "confounded" by Lipinski's opposition to the bill because he is a diabetic who would find it tough --maybe impossible -- to find insurance coverage if he were not in Congress.
On his own website, Lipinski lists "Health Care" as his top issue, and calls reforming health care "one of the most critical tasks facing our nation," which further confused those in his Southwest Side district.
"It's kind if stunning that he would deprive millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions the same security he is given as a member of Congress," a vote counter close to the situation told Lynn Sweet. "That is exactly the kind of thing that enrages folks who are out there struggling."
Lipinski said he would oppose the bill unless stricter bans were put in place that would block federal money from going to clinics that provide abortion services, and even though President Obama's last-minute executive order appeased other pro-life Democrats, he said he did not think it was enough:
"I do not believe the last-minute effort to address these concerns through an Executive Order is sufficient because there is every indication that federal courts would strike down this order, and the order could be repealed at any time in the future," Lipinski said in a statement.
A few other Illinois Democrats who were undecided on the bill ended up voting "yes." Rep. Bobby Rush, who also threatened to vote "no" over prescription drug coverage for low-income people told Sweet he "would stand in the way of this historic and much-needed reform bill," and said about Lipinski, "It's like we live in two different cities. Maybe we do."
Though Lipinski would have trouble getting health coverage if he weren't in Congress, Sweet pointed out that his stint in Congress makes him eligible to buy health coverage for his lifetime after he retires. She also gave a little context regarding how Lipinski got his congressional seat in the first place:
People remember that former Rep. Bill Lipinski (D-Ill.) used political trickery to line-up his Third Congressional District seat for Dan Lipinski, who returned to Illinois from Tennessee to get to Congress through a rigged 2004 nomination. At the time, the scuttlebutt was Bill Lipinski wanted his son in the seat long enough in order to have him vested enrolled in the congressional insurance coverage plan for life. Other well connected Southwest Siders stood down at the time to help out Dan Lipinski.
In a letter last week to HuffPost Chicago, John Atkinson, who lives in Lipinski's district, explained that he and his wife took out ads in the city's newspapers blasting Lipinski for his stance on health reform and accusing him of voting "no" for attention.
"I remember a day back in 1973 when my parents sold our modest house in Westchester so my dad could pay the medical bills created by my mother's illnesses," Atkinson wrote. "She survived, but our family moved into an apartment. My dad struggled to make ends meet, but paid off every doctor and hospital bill. Today, I am fortunate to be financially successful, but I look at one of my beautiful special needs daughter who needs extensive treatment, and wonder. 'What If I did not have health insurance?' Well, I know what if, because it happened to my family 35 years ago, and it is still happening today to families all over this country."
But, as Sweet pointed out "Lipinski's vote was his vote" and though Democratic leaders were "furious with him" Sunday, he told Sweet he did not think the vote would hurt his career in the House --"where relations with leaders and the White House can matter -- by voting no."