Lincoln: I Was Not The Deciding Vote On Health Care Reform

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Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) may have hoped she’d put the primary behind her, but it will continue to haunt her for weeks to come. Now that she’s running full-time in the general election against Rep. John Boozman, Lincoln is once again shoring up her right flank, tiptoeing away from the rhetoric she used to defeat Arkansas Lt. Gov. Bill Halter. The results are…awkward.

For instance, in an interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Lincoln tried to dispel the notion that she cast the deciding vote for health care reform, which remains unpopular in Arkansas.

“I wasn’t the deciding vote,” Lincoln said. “I was among a handful of five Democrats that worked on getting consensus.”

There’s some truth to that. But where did the Democrat-Gazette get the notion that Lincoln tipped health care into the Democrats’ win column? From Blanche Lincoln, who in the below ad said, ” I grew up in an Arkansas family where we were taught to solve problems, not through hate and anger, but by coming together and getting something done. That’s why I cast the deciding vote to pass health care reform.”

Neither characterization is inaccurate. Lincoln was one of four senators, depending on how you count, who withheld their votes on health care reform until the public option was stripped from the bill. And they negotiated as a bloc. But each of them had to be persuaded independently and in that regard all of them–including Sens. Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA)–were the deciding votes.

But in Arkansas being the “deciding vote” for health care is only a badge of honor in a Democratic primary. Now that she’s running against a Republican it’s not a distinction that helps her. But she’ll have a hard time running away from it, and will likely pay for trying to have it both ways.

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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