Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

Tom Perriello's Health-Care Dilemma

Tom Perriello was first known as an activist and liberal entrepreneur: He was an adviser to Sierra Leone's Special Court, co-founder of the international equivalent Avaaz, and a fellow at the Century Foundation. In 2008, however, he became one of the youngest congressmen in the House, winning his seat by a bare 727 votes. This makes him one of the most vulnerable Democrats in Congress, and as a result, one of the most cautious. This manifested early, when he was one of the few to vote against Obama's budget.

Yesterday, Perriello appeared on a list of congressmen who might vote against health-care reform. The American Prospect's Tim Fernholz gave him a call to ask why. Some of Perriello's replies make sense and some don't. I'm instantly suspicious of anyone who responds to a question about the public option with this sort of pabulum:

I feel like you’re seeing a last gasp of the debate that has paralyzed politics since the ’60s, which is, either you’re pro-market or pro-government. I think this generation asks the question, “What’s the problem and how can we solve it?” For us, the market and the power of profit motive is a good thing. For us, this is a pragmatic question, are we going to bring costs down? Not “is it a government take-over?” or are these corporations run amok? So I think you see more of a solutions-oriented person in politics in confrontation with the ideological divides of the ’60s generation.

Come again?

This may be my innate cynicism springing forth, but I don't buy that someone with Perriello's background is actually skeptical of this bill. Reading his interview, I'm even less convinced. Rather, the relevant factors are probably his vulnerability, the apparent popularity of the bill in his district, and whether his vote is crucial to the legislation's passage. And everyone sort of knows that. But politicians aren't supposed to say it: They're supposed to represent their district and ensure reelection, but they're not supposed to explain their actions in those terms. Rather, they're supposed to layer intellectual rationalizations for their voting behavior atop those two priorities.

By Ezra Klein  |  September 9, 2009; 1:26 PM ET
Categories:  Health Reform  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Why Does the Government Hate Renters?
Next: President Clinton's Health Care Address to the Joint Session of Congress


i've been thinking about this for weeks. You've got Nancy Pelosi and her band of progressives out there in San Francisco who want single payer and many of them would tar and feather her if they back down again after already backing down from there. They don't realize that the entire country isn't in San Francisco. If they seceded from the Union then San Francisco could have their single payer. She may lose her raspy voice if she can't even get them (the Democrats) a public option and then you've got her #2, Steny Hoyer in a area like MD that isn't nearly as liberal as that so he's been pushed along to like a public option but he's more sensible to say listen if we cut costs and make insurers honest then that's the end game and an end game I can live with. The problem seems to be the Democrats are too widespread. The Republicans are in tight formation (even if its a crazy formation) and they're together with their base. Democrats base is all over the map and hence you have the whole idea that they can't get their ducks in a row. At some point Hoyer should meet with Pelosi and they should come to a concensus. Actually they should have done that before they looked stupid yesterday in what they said.

As far as Perriello I suspect like many politicians he wants to keep his seat. Its amazing how he turns when his bread is buttered by someone else. Just a little self serving.

That's why i prefer a politican in the "Mike Bloomberg mold". Once that isn't beholden to anyone as long as his approach is centered. Corzine is an example of how that doesn't work if he's too much to one side. I'd guess for a fair right wing comparison you could look at Gov. Schwarzenegger but i honestly don't follow California enough to know that.

Posted by: visionbrkr | September 9, 2009 2:00 PM | Report abuse

"They don't realize that the entire country isn't in San Francisco."

Oh, spare us your particular brand of faux-centrist strawman pablum. The entire country isn't like New Jersey either, thankfully.

Posted by: pseudonymousinnc | September 9, 2009 2:15 PM | Report abuse

For what it's worth, according to Nate Silver's regression analysis, Tom Perriello's district (VA-5) would poll on the public option as 50% pro, 40% con, 10% no opinion.

Posted by: tomveiltomveil | September 9, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

People in Nancy Pelosi's district LIKE the public option (and single payer even more), but they don't NEED it as much as many other people. San Francisco requires businesses to provide health coverage, and all of urban CA has pretty good competition as far as insurers go, especially with Kaiser as a non-profit, innovative HMO leading the way on efficiency and prevention and fairly strong state regulation.

It is the people in districts like Periello's and Mike Ross's and Jim Cooper's to say nothing of the entirety of North Dakota who really NEED the public option to bring costs down and provide competition. But they are the ones whose more precarious position makes they vulnerable to thye GOP's fear mongering and lies about "government-run health care."

Posted by: Mimikatz | September 9, 2009 2:36 PM | Report abuse

"They don't realize that the entire country isn't in San Francisco."

Oh, spare us your particular brand of faux-centrist strawman pablum. The entire country isn't like New Jersey either, thankfully.

Posted by: pseudonymousinnc | September 9, 2009 2:15 PM | Report abuse

oh wait so you bash where i'm from now too? thankfully??? You're really bitter, no? WHy is that?? My point wasn't bashing Ms. Pelosi or anyone in San Francisco but just to state that they on average are more liberal than the rest of the country, especially middle America. As an effective politician I think she would realize that her constituent base and others vary and she should be flexible. To this point she has not been. But go ahead and don't debate a topic, just bash me for where I'm from. Its shows everyone how childish you are.

Posted by: visionbrkr | September 9, 2009 2:59 PM | Report abuse


on and i'm sorry, what did your post have to do with the topic?? Ya i thought so.

Posted by: visionbrkr | September 9, 2009 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Erza, I read the quote twice, but could not find a note of skepticism in the quote.

He appears to say clearly that the priority is how to bring costs down.

That doesn't equate to being for or against a final bill, but rather suggest his support depends on the cost effects of the final bill.

Posted by: HalHorvath | September 9, 2009 3:53 PM | Report abuse

"what did your post have to do with the topic??"

What did your "San Francisco!" interjection have to do with the topic?

"As an effective politician I think she would realize that her constituent base and others vary and she should be flexible."

And your examples of Nancy Pelosi advocating legislation that somehow reflects "San Francisco" -- whatever that's supposed to mean, are...? You resort to this faux-centrist "too much to one side" pablum all the time, when clearly you just like being governed by billionaires.

Pereillo's district includes Charlottesville, and by extension, the University of Virginia. If those supporters stay at home in 2010, he's out, no matter what. Furthermore, he campaigned on conviction politics, and it's taken less than nine months to suck whatever conviction he had out of him. That's a pretty sad indictment on Congress.

Posted by: pseudonymousinnc | September 9, 2009 4:04 PM | Report abuse


you're good at twisting people's words as I've come to learn. I brought up the point of Pelosi because she has no fear of not being re-elected because of a yay vote on a public option, in fact her fear of re-election would be if she voted nay. Hence her stance. Hoyer's stance could and should be slightly different as many more of his constituents would vote against him if he were in favor of a public option than would Pelosi's. As Ezra correctly points out it seems as if Periello's position is not his true feeling on the subject (considering his previous work experience) but rather his fear for re-election and the possibility that a portion of his constituents would take a yay vote against him.

I also meant that a more shrewd politican like for example a Ted Kennedy would realize that and work with what he could. Sorry but I don't consider Nancy Pelosi very shrewd. I'm still allowed an opinion in pseudonymousinnc's world right???

That's why i brought up San Francisco. No other reason.

Governed by billionaires? Seriously? Get over it.

And never once did I mention NJ at all or where I'm from. You brought that up out of spite. You really need to reason a little better and not come off all obnoxious as you do. Not everyone is out to get you, you know.

Posted by: visionbrkr | September 9, 2009 5:22 PM | Report abuse

I'm trying to remember if this came up in one of Ezra's posts on the Baucus/Wellpoint Pan:

Baucus Plan Would Gut State-Level Insurance Industry Regulation

Piece by dday of Digby's blog and other sites. Kind of an important point since progressives have been talking about it for several years as something we don't want to see happen.

I would think that the WaPo would be a good soapbox to use to explain it. When some of us have talked about the "insurance reform" aspects of this process being gamed, it's stuff like this that we envision.


Posted by: toshiaki | September 9, 2009 5:41 PM | Report abuse

I quote:

"They don't realize that the entire country isn't in San Francisco. If they seceded from the Union then San Francisco could have their single payer."

You dumped that little poison pill into the discussion in the very first comment, without ever suggesting what was distinctly "San Francisco" about advocating for single-payer.

John Conyers represents Dearborn and is the author of HR676, so are you going to say that single-payer is just a "Dearborn" thing? Anthony Weiner supports single-payer, so is single payer just a "Brooklyn and Queens" thing?

You may be too dumb to realize that you're latching on to standard right-wing dogwhistles, but spare us the sanctimony.

Posted by: pseudonymousinnc | September 9, 2009 5:42 PM | Report abuse

As an addendum, this would also be a good soapbox for Ezra to point out that the Baucus Plan along with Ross' amendment to the House Bill are being written by the former VP of Wellpoint who is part of the revolving door of politics & corporate ties. For those of us who got more than a little bent about Big Oil/Energy writing the Cheney Energy Policy, it make one feel all warm and fuzzy that Big Health is writing their Phrama deal with the White House (without most of Congress knowing about it) and writing the Baucus plan.

Take a deal, whatever deal is out there, whatever crumb corporate america will toss us to keep us dumb and happy.


Posted by: toshiaki | September 9, 2009 5:48 PM | Report abuse

i'm assuming since you haven't been censored yet you can be as obnoxious as you like but listen closely.

Pelosi is the speaker of the house.

Hoyer is the Majority leader.

Normally in a well functioning congress they don't come to the same press conference and say DIFFERENT THINGS.

I don't give a crap about Conyers, or Weiner or whoever. They're not the leadership, get it Albert? If they can't agree how can the rest of the Democrats agree. JA.

Posted by: visionbrkr | September 9, 2009 6:01 PM | Report abuse

so i guess by your deafening silence you're now realizing how WRONG you are. Lack of apology expected.

oh and what is it you do for a living?

ya right.

Posted by: visionbrkr | September 9, 2009 8:02 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company