Massachusetts Congressman and Senate candidate Stephen Lynch is scurrying around to explain away his vote against Obamacare. On a recent MSNBC appearance, he said he opposed the final legislation because it was not as good as the legislation passed earlier by the House. In fact, his opposition to Obamacare when it mattered most was the height of moral and political cowardice.
As the campaign manager for the national effort to pass health care, I remember when Lynch was booed off the stage at a big rally for health care held at the Boston Commons on Labor Day weekend in 2009. At the rally, some 3000 Massachusetts activists urged their members of Congress to return to Washington and pass the health legislation. This was one of many rallies progressive forces held around the country, answering the ugly tea party town hall meetings in August.
But when Lynch tried to speak, he was jeered, just as he had not been invited to attend Labor Day breakfast held by Boston's union leadership. His cold reception, was because the congressman had been raising doubts about including the public option in health care and had questioned, whether the president should abandon the legislation for an incremental approach. Rather than standing up to the Tea Partiers, he was surrendering. At the time, there was speculation in the press that he was considering running in the primary for U.S. Senate as a conservative Democrat.
After deciding not to contest the Senate primary, Lynch did eventually support the health care bill, when it came up for a first vote in November. But then came Scott Brown's surprise victory in the January special election to replace Ted Kennedy. Brown's campaigning against the health legislation was one factor in his win. Despite that blow, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rallied her troops and did everything she could to get the votes needed to enact the final legislation on March 21st. That took political courage for many members of Congress from swing Congressional districts. But Lynch's vote against the bill -- from a safe Democratic seat! -- was a profile in cowardice.
The cruel joke Lynch is now trying to pull is that his vote was from the left, saying that the final bill wasn't good enough. That would make Lynch the only vote against health reform from the left, as even progressive champions like Rep. Dennis Kucinich and Luis Gutierrez realized that the health care bill care reform was an historic opportunity to make health care affordable to millions of Americans and reign in insurance company abuses.
Lynch is now trying to hide behind his vote for the House bill, saying that the Senate bill had shortcomings. But it was the vote for the Senate bill that mattered; if Lynch had prevailed, health reform would have died. And by killing health reform, Lynch would have joined in the deaths of the tens of thousands of uninsured Americans whose lives are being saved now and will be saved in every increasing numbers when ObamaCare's coverage for tens of millions starts next January and when insurance companies can no longer deny people care for pre-existing conditions.
During her first debate with Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton called universal health care "a core Democratic value and an imperative for our country." President Obama, every Democrat in the United States Senate and 85% of Democrats in the House of Representatives did what it took to deliver. Lynch's failure to uphold that core Democratic value when it really mattered is all any Massachusetts Democrat who plans to vote in the primary needs to know on Election Day.