The Campaign Spot

A Maryland Democrat Meets His Constituents: ‘I’m Not Here to Defend the Bill.’

Rep. Frank Kratovil (D., Md.) had a similar tough time explaining recent votes to constituents. Notice that the congressman “got an earful” and that there were “loud” cheers, applause, and gasps at various points; no mention of an angry mob or Obama-Joker posters. The section on health care:

At one point Tuesday, Kratovil declared: “I’m not here to defend the bill; I’d have voted against it.”

What Kratovil would not do, however, was promise to vote against any version of a universal health care bill. Several members in the audience had sought that assurance from him.

“For the majority of Americans, we’ve got it pretty good,” he said of health care coverage. But Kratovil believes the system needs an overhaul because the uninsured are driving up costs for everybody else.

“The uninsured isn’t just an issue for the uninsured,” he said in an interview following the meeting. “It’s about getting them into the system so they pay into it. Hopefully, it will reduce the cost for the rest of us.”

Kratovil said he is concerned pending health care plans don’t control costs nor do they do enough to protect small businesses. Additionally, he wants Maryland doctors to receive better reimbursement rates for Medicare. The state’s rate is among the worst in the nation, he said.

Kratovil said several times during Tuesday’s meeting he would not have voted in favor of health care bills as written. The former Queen Anne’s County state’s attorney added he hopes Congress does not rush into anything until “we have all the facts.”

“Given some of the problems and issues with the bill, I didn’t believe it’s ready to come to a vote on the House bill (version),” he said.

He also heard from local farmers who fear the recently passed cap-and-trade legislation will hurt their businesses; Kratovil said it would help them “in the long term.”

The “I would not have voted for the bill as written” defense is something of a dodge, as the bill is certain to get amended between now and when it comes to the floor. All lawmakers are saying with that statement is that they wouldn’t have voted for the current version if they were on the relevant committees.

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