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UPDATE: Webb under fire on health care

Amy Gardner

U.S. Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) is getting banged up by Republicans over what they expect is his impending vote for a Senate version of health reform.

Webb hasn't even voted yet, but already he's being accused of flip-flopping in a video and in media interviews by state and national Republicans. Their evidence? Like many centrist Democrats, Webb has supported the idea of reform while expressing reservations about whether the bill will do what it's supposed to, notably reduce costs and expand coverage.

Yet Webb's name is not mentioned in national reports about those Democrats who are not yet ready to end debate on the bill. That step requires 60 votes, while final passage requires only a simple majority.

"He's going to vote for cloture and then be given permission to vote against it on final passage," said Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for the Republican Party of Virginia. "He's trying to have it both ways, and we're just trying to call attention to that."

Murtaugh said that nearly 5,000 Virginians have signed GOP-sponsored petitions (either in person or online) that were then sent to Webb's office asking him to vote no on health reform.

Webb's folks did not immediately provide a response, but we'll update here when they do.

Update: Here's a statement from Webb spokeswoman Jessica Smith.

"Senator Webb has taken a number of tough votes in the last month-- always voting his conscience and without bowing to party politics. It is not surprising that he is being lobbied by interests on both sides of the aisle. Senator Webb has a reputation for being very deliberative and independent-minded. The fact that he has said he is undecided about this bill is not extraordinary. He reviews all legislation with great care and deliberation. During this debate, he has broken with his party six times, including four votes to prevent cuts in Medicare. At the same time, he appreciates that the need for health care reform is great. The status quo of our health care system burdens families and undermines the competitive position of American business."

In the meantime, it's fair to say that, because Webb is the next big target for Republicans in Virginia, they see Webb's actions on health care as a chance to soften the ground for anyone who might challenge him in 2012.

It's also worth noting that the conservative group 60 Plus Association is running an ad praising Webb for voting yes to a John McCain-sponsored amendment intended to block cuts to Medicare.

View a video produced by the RNC below (a video, incidentally, produced to attack a number of Democratic senators, including Webb).

By Amy Gardner  |  December 17, 2009; 9:41 PM ET
Categories:  Amy Gardner , James Webb  
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When are we, i.e., liberal democrats, going to get sick and tired of DINOs. Webb was a red-neck down state republiroach and still is a republiroach. THE only reason he cloaked as a democrat was to get elected Senator ... something that must amaze him every day he walks into the Senate Building. Counting on Webb would be like Washington putting his money on Arnold to hold West Point!

Let these DINOs do their worst and then let the voters decide their electoral fates. Its time we stopped kow-towing to the likes of Lieberman, Nelson, Lieberman, et al. We have allowed these DINOs to turn Health Care Reform into Insurance Company Largess ...

Posted by: CAPinFLA | December 18, 2009 10:13 AM | Report abuse

If Webb votes for this unprecedented power grab, he can say goodbye to his seat in the next election. It's really as simple as that.

Posted by: pijacobsen1 | December 18, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse

I am a Virginia voter and I have an HSA with a high deductible insurance policy. If this Bill passes, I will lose my current coverage and I will be forced to buy an expensive insurance policy which will cost at least twice as much as I currently pay, and I will bank nothing in my HSA.

If Webb votes for this, I will not only vote against him, I will not only contribute to his opponent, I will actively campaign for his opponent. People in VA are UP IN ARMS over this. Given McDonnell's performance, Webb will be toast.

Posted by: pijacobsen1 | December 18, 2009 11:37 AM | Report abuse

I've sent several Letters to Senator Webb. Mr. Jacobsen is right. If the Senator has any integrity he will not vote for cloture on this bill, and will be remembered by his constituents for his integrity. He can get voted back into Office in 5 years, as he has shown himself to be a principled man, who is popular for several of his conservative positions.

If he sacrifices those credentials on the altar of healthcare, he is done, and I, who would vote for him in 2014 otherwise, will canvas against him.

Posted by: Akcita_Tridens | December 18, 2009 12:01 PM | Report abuse

My husband and I are two of the people who have signed the Petition put out by the Republican Party of Virginia. Anyone who wants to sign it can go to and it will be sent on to Senator Webb's office.

As best I understand, Sen. Webb became a Democrat because he did not support the War in Iraq. I am hoping that he continues being independent minded although I know one of his ex-wives is employed by the healthcare industry.

The bill as it stands is going to solve very few if any of the problems healthcare currently has. It will not reduce costs for most of us and it will end up bankrupting many states due to the additional Medicaid patients who will be added to the rolls.

The one thing it will do is create over 100 new agencies that we can not afford right now. Think of all the new employees (avg. federal salary $71,000.00) that will be hired, office buildings/space that will have to be built or rented, medical policies and retirement for all those employees, and all the overhead putting together the data systems necessary to track all the new patients (everyone will have to be tracked because everyone will either have to buy an insurance policy that the government approves -- no more high deductibles -- or pay a fine).

Why not do a few things at a time and let's start with removing the anti-trust exemption for health insurers and allow all the companies to trade wherever they want, tort reform based on the models from the several states where it is working to lower premiums, and ban the pre-existing conditions (can't be denied or dropped)?

If that brings down premiums, we're set.

Why try to run it all when it is possible that a few reforms will fix the whole kit and kaboodle?

Let's hope Senator Webb sees that pushing this through before Christmas will leave room for many errors. Besides, it's dangerous making staffers and aides drive back and forth to the Capitol while a raging snowstorm takes place. I will hold Harry Reid and Pres. Obama directly responsible if anyone elected or employed on Capitol Hill is hurt this weekend because of their arrogance.

Posted by: auntpittypat | December 18, 2009 12:39 PM | Report abuse

It is absolutely amazing that these Senators think anyone is going to fall for the "I will vote for cloture and then vote against the bill later" nonsense. If you vote for cloture, you are voting for this terrible, awful bill to become law.

It is just mindbogglingly hard to believe that in the United States the government is on the brink of forcing people to buy insurance from a private company against their will; it is hard to fathom that such a thing could occur here. If such a naked power grab doesn't eliminate the Democratic majorities in at least the House next year, it will be a complete shock.

Posted by: Bob65 | December 18, 2009 12:46 PM | Report abuse

"When are we, i.e., liberal democrats, going to get sick and tired of DINOs."

Um, DINOs provide your majority. No DINOs, no majority. As a Republican, I heartily support you.
Be pure. Throw 'em out.

Posted by: BigMac4 | December 18, 2009 5:15 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: donaldtucker | December 18, 2009 7:50 PM | Report abuse

Everyone! Someone commented on another political topic about a site called I was skeptical, but he website name make me curious. I did visit the site and found it very interesting an nothing like I thought. The site is free, non-partisan and was very easy to use. I wrote a letter to my Senators, Congressman, and a complete Senate Committee and Congressional Committee for a total of 54 politicians. After writing the body of the letter, I had the option to print them off myself so I could mail them, or I could have mail them for FREE. I think this is a wonder site and all should know about it. Get involved in Democracy.

Posted by: paytonmarx | December 18, 2009 10:10 PM | Report abuse

WE WUZ CHEATED. Why in the world couldn't Jim Webb hold out until Virginia got some kind of advantage? We are not being represented very well. Ben Nelson, by pretending to have principles, got $45 million for his state over 10 years to fully fund expansion of coverage for his state's Medicaid program. So, Nebraska gets a fully funded Medicaid program, and Virginia doesn't. Webb (and Warner, of whom less is expected) let us down big time. Now we will be stuck with bills that Nebraska doesn't have to pay, indeed, we will be paying for ours and theirs as well. Thanks, Jim Webb.

Posted by: LaLydia | December 21, 2009 8:13 AM | Report abuse

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