Dennis Kucinich will vote yes on Obama health-care bill

Gautham Nagesh Contributor
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Rep. Dennis Kucinich announced Wednesday that he will support the health-care bill despite his objections to its contents. The Cleveland liberal suggested his mind was changed by a personal appeal from President Obama and out of concern for the precarious state of Obama’s presidency.

Speaking in a cramped Capitol studio packed with reporters, Kucinich attempted to explain how his reversal on the necessity of the public option was not a capitulation to White House pressure, despite all appearances to the contrary. He said Obama underscored the urgency of the moment during their trip to Ohio on Air Force One last week, leading him to realize that he would have to set aside his personal views on the bill and support the president’s agenda.

“I know I have to make a decision not on the bill as I would like to see it, but the bill as it is,” Kucinich said, before adding that he stands by all of his previous criticisms of the bill, which will likely not include a public option for health insurance. He also said he will continue to be one of the strongest advocates in Congress for a single-payer health-care system and that Obama has promised to work with him to address his concerns about the legislation.

“I have taken a detour through supporting this bill, but I know the destination I will continue to lead, for as long as it takes, whatever it takes to an America where health care will be firmly established as a civil right,” he said. “This is certainly not going to be the end of it.

When asked how the White House managed to change his mind, Kucinich suggested it was a personal appeal from the president during their previous White House meeting that first made him sympathetic towards the Obama’s position. He denied getting and side-benefits or pet projects like the “Cornhusker Kickback” for Nebraska that was included in a previous version of the bill.

“A big mistake we make in Washington is we get so intractable we forget to talk to each other,” Kucinich said, adding that the meeting generated “a real sense of compassion for our president, for what he’s going through. We have to be compassionate. It’s not an easy burden he’s taken up.” He also indicated he was bothered by attempts to delegitimize Obama’s presidency.

While he said Obama did not explicitly promise to revisit the public option in the near future, Kucinich indicated that other liberal House members should follow his lead and toe the party line. But he followed that by doubling down on his criticisms. When asked if how he would respond to critics that say he’s sold out the left, he replied: “I don’t buckle under pressure.”

“I maintain that the bill is flawed and I’ve been vocal about it,” he said, but said he’s supporting it because he doesn’t want the bill’s failure to bring down the president’s entire legislative agenda. “We have to be careful that the potential of Obama’s presidency isn’t lost.”