hortly before the February 25 health-care summit, President Obama unveiled his proposal for comprehensive reform, which was broadly similar to the Senate legislation that won approval on Christmas Eve but also borrowed some ideas from the House bill that passed on November 7. “The administration’s package includes nearly every major [problem] that caused me to vote against the first piece of health-care legislation last fall,” grumbled one congressman, adding that “there is no chance I am voting for this bill, because it raises taxes on businesses, creates job-killing mandates, grows the government, and cuts services to seniors.”
Those sound like standard Republican talking points — but they came from Oklahoma Democrat Dan Boren, who has been a persistent critic of both Obamacare and his party’s cap-and-trade energy scheme. Indeed, the 36-year-old Boren, who refused to endorse Obama during the 2008 campaign, may well be the most conservative Democratic lawmaker on Capitol Hill.
Compared with other Democrats who represent districts that went for John McCain, Boren is also unusually popular back home. Consider a recent survey by Public Policy Polling (PPP), a Democratic outfit based in Raleigh. “Dan Boren is the first Democratic member of Congress Public Policy Polling has found with an approval rating over 50 percent since last October,” PPP reported last week, “and because of that he holds a solid lead over all of his potential Republican challengers for this fall’s election.” According to the poll, most Democrats (55 percent) and a plurality of Republicans (47 percent) in Oklahoma’s second district approve of Boren, as do 52 percent of Obama voters and an equal share of McCain voters. Boren leads his closest GOP rival by 16 points.
Moreover, the poll suggests that if his constituents were better informed about his position on Obamacare, Boren’s numbers would be even higher. Roughly a third (32 percent) of survey respondents incorrectly thought that Boren had supported
the Democratic health-care bill last November, and another 38 percent weren’t sure how he had voted. Only 17 percent of Boren’s constituents favor the legislation; 61 percent oppose it, including a plurality (42 percent) of Democrats.
“They’ll have to walk across my dead body if they want my vote on this issue,” Boren told Fox News last week, referring to House Democratic leaders. “This is so galvanizing in my district. I think the votes are not there, and I don’t see where we get them.” According to the PPP survey, Obama’s approval rating in OK-2 is a dismal 27 percent, and 64 percent of Boren’s constituents feel that congressional Democrats are too liberal. “They can break my arms,” he told Fox. “They can do whatever they want to. They’ll never get my vote — ever.”