UPDATE: Webb under fire on health care
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).
December 17, 2009; 9:41 PM ET
Categories: Amy Gardner , James Webb
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