When he said he was going to call a press conference today, Dennis Kucinich wasn’t leaving too many people on the edge of their seats as to which way he was going to flip regarding his vote on health care. As many expected, he goes from “no” to “yes”:
“In the past week it’s become clear that the vote on the final bill will be very close,” Kucinich, who voted No last time because of the lack of the public option, said at a presser moments ago. He acknowleged [sic] that he’d be voting “not on the bill as I would like to see it, but as it is.”
“However, after careful discussions with President Obama, Speaker Pelosi” and others, Kucinich said, “I’ve decided to cast a vote in favor of the legislation.”
Kucinich revealed he’d met four times with President Obama, mostly going over his objections, but said he’d been persuaded in part because at one recent meeting he recognized how difficult Obama’s challenge is.“I left it with a real sense of compassion for our president and what he’s going through,” he said. “We have to be compassionate towards those who are called upon to make decisions for this nation. It’s not an easy burden that he’s taken up.
Kucinich said Obama didn’t make any promises to take up the public option later.
“What he committed to was to continue to work with me on the broad concerns that I have,” he said. “He didn’t make any specific commitment.”
Kucinich said that ultimately he couldn’t escape the argument that “something is better than nothing.”“People are looking for some hope that maybe something can be changed,” he said, suggesting that he may have been persuaded by Obama’s frequent argument that passing reform is essential in order to prove to Americans that government is not entirely dysfunctional.
Kucinich conceded that he decided to swallow the bill because failure would be a threat to Obama’s overall agenda. He said he has “a real desire for our president to succeed,” adding that “one of the things that bothers me is the attempt to deligitimize [sic] this presidency.”
Kucinich said Obama had offered him nothing concrete in exchange for his vote. “There was no Nebraska or Louisiana type deal,” he said.
Not really that big of a surprise considering Kucinich’s initial opposition was that the bill was sufficiently left-wing enough to satisfy a single-payer proponent like him. But really, the quote about him changing his mind basically because he felt bad for what the President was going through … really? Is empathy for another politician a good basis for basing a vote affecting one-sixth of the American economy?
Kucinich’s flip may give a momentary illusion of momentum, but in reality the switch isn’t going to persuade more moderate Democrats in red districts, though it may give cover to other progressives who were hesitant about the bill for reasons similar to Kucinich. Really, this is Obama shoring up the base of people he should have in the can already, so while it may look like a win for Pelosi, it’s really sort of a reflection on how fractured the Democratic caucus has become.