Blanche Lincoln Gives Reid Needed Votes to Advance Bill

Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas said she would vote to allow the Senate health care bill to advance, thus giving Majority Leader Harry Reid the needed votes to bring the legislation to the floor for debate after Thanksgiving recess.

Lincoln also put fellow Democrats on notice that she would vote against moving the bill in the next major vote if the government-run plan is not removed by the end of the amendment process.

“Although I don’t agree with everything in this bill, I have concluded that I believe it is more important that we begin this debate to improve our nation’s health care system for all Americans, rather than just simply drop the issue and walk away,” Lincoln said.

She said that, “Attempts by the national Republican Party and other conservative groups to portray this as a vote for or against this particular health care reform bill, is untrue.”

Several times, she said she said it was “not my last or only chance to have an impact” and promised to be unswayed by pressure from political groups on the left or right.

“My first loyalties are to the people of Arkansas,” Lincoln insisted. But a Zogby poll released earlier this week found that Arkansans opposed health care legislation by a 64 percent to 29 percent margin, and after pollsters explained what was in the legislation, that number grew to 68 percent to 26 percent. It also showed that her reelection chances would be severely hampered in 2010 if she voted for the bill.

“I’m not thinking about my reelection, the legacy of a president, or whether Democrats or Republicans are going to be able to claim victory in winning this debate,” she said in announcing her support to advance the bill to the Senate floor.

But while securing a short-term victory for Reid, Lincoln also complicated things by vowing unequivocally to block any bill that included a government-run plan from getting a final vote.

“Let me be perfectly clear,” she said. “I am opposed to a new government administered health care plan as a part of comprehensive health insurance reform, and I will not vote in favor of the proposal that has been introduced by leader Reid as it is written.”

More specifically, she warned, “I am also aware that there will be additional procedural votes to move this process forward that will require 60 votes prior to the conclusion to the floor debate. I’ve already alerted the leader and I’m promising my colleagues that I’m prepared to vote against moving to the next stage of consideration as long as a government-run option is included.”

Earlier in her speech, Lincoln explained her reasons for opposing the government plan.

“I believe that we should work to make sure that we do not expose American taxpayers and the Treasury to a long-term risk that could occur over future government bailouts,” she said.