2 California congressmen say they'll vote for health care bill

McClatchy NewspapersMarch 20, 2010 

WASHINGTON — Reps. Dennis Cardoza and Jim Costa, both of whom approved a health care bill last November, said Saturday they'll support a $940 billion health care overhall package when it comes to a vote on Sunday.

Cardoza, who represents Merced, and Costa, who represents Fresno, separately concluded the legislation will benefit the residents of their districts at a reasonable cost. Both praised specific health coverage reforms as well as projections that the bill will reduce the federal budget deficit.

“I have had personal, real-life medical experience that told me the time to act is now,” Cardoza said.

Cardoza illustrated with family examples. His brother’s small business was recently hit with a 75 percent premium increase, Cardoza said, while his sister-in-law was simultaneously being denied medical treatment she needed. Cardoza further cited new guarantees about insurance portability when workers change jobs, as well as coverage for those with pre-existing medical coniditinos.

Cardoza announced his decision shortly after Costa, who is a fellow member of the moderate Blue Dog coalition.

“I am satisfied that (this) will take life and death decisions away from the insurance companies and protect patient rights,” Costa said. “The bill also ensures that patients and our families can receive essential treatment without fear of bankruptcy.”

The decisions by Cardoza and Costa put House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the edge of the 216 votes she needs for House approval. The votes also guarantee they will get hit hard by Republicans, who have already prepared ads and talking points targeting certain Democrats.

“I think this is a complete disaster for anyone who votes for it,” said Rep. Devin Nunes, a Repoublican whose district includes Visalia, Calif.

The National Republican Congressional Committee is planning to run cable television ads dubbed “March Madness” in districts where lawmakers vote for the health bill. Republican leaders and their cable television allies cast the San Joaquin Valley Democrats’ votes as a “backroom deal” that swapped health care support for an increase in federal irrigation water deliveries announced earlier this week.

“If this isn't using water as a weapon, I don't know what is,” Fox News Channel talk show star Glenn Beck opined Friday. “This is one of the most hair raising, terrifying pieces of information I think I've ever seen.”

Cardoza and Costa both said the Interior Department’s March 17 water delivery announcement was unrelated to their health care bill decisions.

Both have been urging the Interior Department for several months to move up water delivery decisions so farmers have more planning time.

Both said they'd heard plenty from constituents favoring the bill.

Doctors Medical Center Chief Executive Officer Dennis M. Litos, for instance, wrote Cardoza on Thursday to say the 2,000 employees of the Modesto-based facility wanted the legislation to pass. Simultaneously, a Democratic group called Organizing for America was bombarding area residents with e-mails urging them to contact Cardoza electronically.

“They make it so easy,” Modesto resident Doug Estes said of the mass e-mail campaign. “The letter is already filled in, and you just hit the utton.”

Cardoza and Costa had voted for the earlier House health care bill last December but insisted that a final decision would await review of the detailed language and cost estimates released Thursday. The bill is intended to extend health insurance protection to 32 million U.S. residents who currently lack coverage.

An estimated 22 percent of the residents in Cardoza’s congressional district currently are uninsured. In Costa’s district, an estimated 28 percent are uninsured.

“Health care reform is not about Washington,” Costa said. “It’s about all the people across our Valley and the 28 percent uninsured in my congressional district who are calling for commonsense solutions that will make their lives better.”

The action Sunday will include an initial vote on a 2,409-page Senate bill, followed by a vote on a 153-page batch of corrections.

Cardoza joined Republicans in opposing a controversial “deeming” procedure that would have allowed lawmakers to say they did not actively vote for the Senate measure.

Cardoza, a member of the House Rules Committee, spoke Saturday against the deeming procedure and later announced that it was being dropped.

“We’ve had sanity prevail here,” Cardoza said. “This is something that should be done in the light of day.”

The Congressional Budget Office estimates the bill will reduce the federal budget deficit by $1.2 trillion over the next 20 years.

Skeptics say a 20-year economic forecast is inherently shaky, and note the presumed deficit reduction relies upon future lawmakers being willing to accede to politically unpopular Medicare cuts.

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