Four Virginia Democrats Are ‘Undecided’ on Health Care Bill Following GOP Landslide in Their State

November 6, 2009 - 5:25 PM
Four of Virginia's Democratic members in the U.S. House of Representatives are not sure whether they can support Speaker Nancy Pelosi's health reform bill if it comes up for a vote Saturday. Their indecision comes on the heels of Tuesday's Republican landslide in Virginia.

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D.-Va.) (Congressional photo)

(Upate: Reps. Boucher and Nye, both Virginia Democrats, joined 37 of their Democratic colleagues in opposing the House health care overhaul, which ultimately passed 220-215.)

(CNSNews.com) - Four of Virginia’s Democratic members in the U.S. House of Representatives are not sure whether they can support Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s health-care reform bill that will soon come up for a vote on the floor of the House. Their indecision comes on the heels of Tuesday’s Republican landslide in Virginia.

Bob McDonnell, the victorious Republican gubernatorial candidate in Virginia, won all four districts handily, three by more than 60 percent. The four reluctant Democrats are Representatives Glenn Nye, Tom Perriello, Rick Boucher, and Gerry Connolly.

Connolly, Perriello, and Nye are all freshman whose seats were previously held by Republicans while Boucher represents a district in rural Virginia.

Nye, whose district McDonnell won with 62 percent of the vote--a 24-point margin of victory--is still considering whether or not to support the bill, according to a senior aide. Nye’s concern, the aide told CNSNews.com, is that the legislation will not be much of a help to small business.
 
“He has been going through it and actually diagramming it out,” the aide explained. “He’s really been trying to go through and figure out the exact implications of the bill.”
 
Nye is concerned with the potential negative impact on small businesses of a mandate that would require all but the smallest employers to provide their employees with health insurance.

“He’s been spending a lot of time talking with small-business owners in particular, with folks back in the district, about the impact it would have. Those conversations are ongoing,” said the aide.
 
“He has not reached a decision on the bill at this point,” the aide said.
 
Perriello, whose district McDonnell won with 61 percent of the vote, is “currently undecided” according to spokeswoman Jessica Barba. Perriello, who unseated Republican Rep. Virgil Goode by less than 800 votes in 2008, had moved from a definite ‘no’ to a ‘maybe,’ according to an October 30 report on NBC29, the local NBC television affiliate in his district.

Virginia’s 5th congressional district, which Perriello represents, overlaps with the state Senate district of McDonnell’s Democratic challenger, R. Creigh Deeds.

A third Democrat, Rep. Rick Boucher, is also undecided, according to an aide. However, a "no" vote from Boucher would not be a “change in his position” because Boucher opposed the previous iteration of Pelosi’s health bill, HR 3200.

“He is still reviewing the bill and has not yet taken a position,” the aide told CNSNews.com.

“He also voted no on the bill in July in the Energy and Commerce committee, so a ‘no’ vote would not be a change in his position,” said the aide.
 
In July, Boucher said he had doubts about a public option, saying he preferred a co-op plan to one run by the federal government. The current measure contains a federally-run health plan.
 
“I am skeptical of a government-operated health care plan. I prefer the creation of a health care cooperative, owned and operated by its members, which would compete with private, for-profit health care plans,” Boucher said.
 
Boucher, whose district historically votes Republican in statewide elections, also said that he wanted to see “every effort” to attract Republican support for the health-care bill, something Speaker Pelosi has not managed to do.

“On a matter of this scope and importance to all Americans, I think that every reasonable effort should be made to enlist our Republican colleagues in drafting and passing the bill,” Boucher said in July.
 
Perhaps most notable among the Virginia undecideds is Rep Gerry Connolly, president of the 2009 Democrat Freshman Class. Connolly, whose wealthy northern Virginia district was won by McDonnell with 55 percent of the vote, had been critical of the initial version of version of the health-care bill (HR 3200)--particularly the “millionaire’s tax” it included because he said that would have hurt his constituents.

“This was unacceptable in a high-cost area like ours,” Connolly said October 30. “Too many working families and small businesses in my district would have been affected.”

Despite winning a concession on that provision, Connolly remains undecided. A senior aide to the congressman told CNSNews.com “we’ll see” when asked whether he would support the bill on Saturday.
 
“We’ll see on Saturday, or Sunday, whenever the vote comes up,” said the aide.