With health care reform legislation likely coming down to only a handful of votes in the House of Representatives, Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) stands alone as seemingly the only liberal purist opposing the bill.
After he appeared on MSNBC Monday night to reiterate his opposition, the Ohio Democrat was asked by the Huffington Post whether he is worried that the failure to pass legislation will seriously hurt his party.
Maybe so, Kucinich conceded. But passing a bill that was a "giveaway to the insurance industry" would be just as damaging to the party's prospects. Reform for the sake of action is not a virtue and following through on protests of flawed legislation is not a vice.
Appearing on "Countdown with Keith Olbermann", Kucinich said that, without a robust public option that covers enough people to make a tangible market impact, it's not worth making any effort to woo his vote. "The White House has known my position," he said. "Democratic leaders have known my position."
Indeed, his stance is not a secret (he voted against the more progressive House legislation this fall). But it remains a topic for increasingly emotional debate. There has been sympathy from like-minded progressives, who see Kucinich airing the same type of principled opposition to the bill (although from a different ideological prospective) displayed by conservative Democrats during the legislative process. "I am not a radical," emailed one Huffington Post reader, "but I think Kucinich's arguments are much closer to the majority of Americans' wants than forced insurance subsidization."
But others are downright alarmed. With the chance that Kucinich could derail the entire reform enterprise because it doesn't go far enough, the congressman is now being cast by some as a spoiler on a par with Ralph Nader during the 2000 election.
"[T]here is some chance, however small, that Kucinich will cast the deciding vote," Talking Points Memo's Brian Beutler wrote on Monday. "And for the time being, he's saying he'd rather be the Ralph Nader of reform, instead of its kingmaker."
"Horrible," chimed in Center for American Progress's Matt Yglesias, in regard to Kucinich restating his opposition on MSNBC.
On Twitter, the reaction has been fierce, with people calling Kucinich a "jerk," suggesting that he seek the GOP's 2012 nomination, and urging the president to dispatch his browbeating Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel to take him "out at the knees."
"Et Tu Kucinich," wrote one tweeter, drawing the imagery of the congressman knifing the Obama agenda as it struggles for life.
But all the angst and anger doesn't seem to be having an impact. In addition to having the loyalty of liberal supporters who also don't think the current health care bill deserves to pass, Kucinich remains unbending in his convictions -- down to the finest detail.
A provision that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) inserted into the Senate bill that allows states to use federal money to set up a single-payer system would seem to satisfy some of Kucinich's concerns. But the congressman relayed to the Huffington Post that he didn't find the language strong enough because it doesn't prevent insurance companies from suing the state for setting up a universal care system.
Asked about the legislation in its entirety, he told MSNBC: "This bill represents a giveaway to the insurance industry, $70 billion a year, and no guarantees of any control over premiums, forcing people to buy private insurance, five consecutive years of double digit premium increases. I'm sorry, I just don't see that this bill is the solution. The insurance companies are the problem and we are giving them a version of the bailout."