Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) announced this morning that he will in fact vote for the Senate health care bill. Kucinich’s switch was a major pickup for Democrats who are clinging to a razor thin majority on health care reform and have been struggling to find the votes to get it passed.
“This is not the bill I wanted to support,” Kucinich said. “However after careful discussions with President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, my wife Elizabeth and friends, I decided to cast a vote in favor of the legislation.”
Kucinich originally voted no on the House version of the bill last fall, citing concerns the legislation didn’t go far enough to help struggling Americans. He repeatedly said he couldn’t support the Senate bill before his announcement today.“I know I have to make a decision not on the bill as I would like to see it but as it is,” Kucinich said, noting the Senate bill at least gave health coverage to 31 million more Americans. “My criticism of the legislation has been well reported. I do not retract those criticisms. I incorporate them into this statement.”
Democrats had been pushing Kucinich to vote “yes.” On Monday, at an event in Ohio, President Obama responded to an audience member yelling out “Vote Yes!” by laughing and saying, “Did you hear that, Dennis?”
Before the event, Kucinich – one of the few Democrats who opposed the bill last fall from the left – rode with the president on Air Force One.
Kucinich, a former surgical technician, laid out his requirements for switching his vote in an editorial this weekend – saying that Democrats would need to include a robust public option and a state waiver to allow legislatures to create a single-payer health care system if they chose. It’s unlikely both of those changes would be made to the bill, which has gotten more conservative over time.
The Ohio representative also took the opportunity to blast those who refer to President Obama’s efforts to reform health care as socialism, saying the time has come to stand up to insurance companies.