Leaning No: Will Kucinich Become The Ralph Nader Of Health Care Reform?

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As the health care reform fight enters its final days, most eyes are on about two dozen pro-life and vulnerable Democrats in the House, where the greatest number of votes remain in play. But could the fate of reform actually rest in the hands of a long-serving progressive?

House Democrats are doing whatever they can to secure the 216 votes they’ll likely need to pass the Senate bill, and it’s shaping up to be a squeaker. Abortion foes are threatening to defect, as are some squeamish vulnerable Dems. Balancing them out, leadership hopes, are several members who voted “no” on the House health care bill in November, but are now back in the mix–these are, for the most part, retiring members, and freshmen from competitive districts.But one of the House’s leading progressives says he’s unlikely to be swayed. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) voted against the House health care bill. And his office confirmed to me today that he remains opposed to the Senate bill.

Last week, there were some signs that Kucinich might be persuadable. At a White House meeting Thursday, President Obama apprised Kucinich of a measure in the Senate health care bill–authored by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)–that allow individual states to create single payer systems several years down the line. Kucinich was said to be interested in the provision.

Apparently not interested enough.

A couple important caveats: 1). There hasn’t been a whip count yet, so members might still be jockeying for leverage, and leadership hasn’t had to draw out their big guns yet. 2). In a vote this close, and this important, everything will likely be fluid until the last moment.

But there is some chance, however small, that Kucinich will cast the deciding vote. And for the time being, he’s saying he’d rather be the Ralph Nader of reform, instead of its kingmaker.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com
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