In a statement, Kissell said the bill’s $399 billion in proposed cuts in Medicare benefits forced his hand.
“From the day I announced my candidacy for this office, I promised to protect Medicare,” he said in the statement. “I gave my word I wouldn’t cut it and I intend to keep that promise to the citizens of the Eighth District and the senior citizens of the nation.”
He continued to say he believes “comprehensive health care and insurance reform is necessary,” but could not vote for the bill as it is currently written.
The bill in question is House Resolution 3962, known as the Affordable Health Care for America Act. It was unveiled by congressional leaders from the Democratic Party last week to mixed reviews in the media and public opinion.
At 1,900 pages long, it is estimated the bill would cost more than $1 trillion over the next 10 years by the Congressional Budget Office.
Kissell, who is one of the more conservative Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives, is regarded as a swing vote on this highly contested issue.
Local and district party leaders from the left and right reacted to the announcement Wednesday.
Eighth District Democratic Party Chairwoman June Mabry said the party members she’s talked to in the district want health care reform, and she personally would like to see him vote yes on the bill presented.
Even so, she supports his decision to vote no.
“I think everyone can agree we need healthcare reform,” Mabry said. “We have the best healthcare system in the world, it just doesn’t cover everyone it needs to.”
She said in a perfect world he would vote yes, or the bill would pass without his vote.
If it doesn’t, Mabry said she would look for him to continue to try to make it happen.
“What I want is for him to keep up the fight, and get in there and roll up his sleeves and do whatever he needs to do to make it happen,” Mabry said. “The over-arching concern is that healthcare reform gets pushed through.”
She said Kissell was elected “to go up there and get into the messy details,” and she respects his concern over Medicare funding.
“I may not agree with everything Larry decides, but I understand his position and I respect the fact that he’s standing behind a campaign promise he made to support Medicare,” Mabry said. “If Medicare’s what’s holding this up, we don’t want him to stop fighting to find a way to push healthcare reform that’s fair for all the people through.”
She noted Congress is grappling with other issues such as the fiscal crisis, climate change and many other issues as well.
“I want to see healthcare reform happen now, to be honest I would’ve liked to have seen it six months ago, but it’s important that any healthcare reform that is pushed through is fair to all the people,” Mabry said. “I think what Larry is trying to do is to be fair to everyone, and I will support him as long as he does what he thinks is right for all the people.”
In summation, she said she would like to see Kissell vote yes, but the most important thing to her is that he continue to find ways to put something together that makes health insurance affordable for the average person.
“I would like for him to vote yes, but he has to vote his conscience,” she concluded.
Richmond County Republican Party Chairman Lee Butler is firmly against the bill, as are most members of the local party.
He pointed out home health care cost was cited as problematic by Kissell in the past, but Medicare funding is cited in this announcement.
“I think his reasoning is interesting,” Butler said. “The health care bill as it stands - Obamacare - is filled with reasons for our representatives to not support it. His reasoning is Medicare cuts, and that’s fine, but that goes against his own party.”
Butler said there is a message to be gleaned by Eighth District voters.
“He’s telling the people who elected him that his party isn’t doing what’s in the best interest of our senior citizens,” Butler said.
Butler said the Democratic leadership’s contention they can pay for the bill through the absence of Medicare expenditures, they should focus on creating those savings, then improve healthcare benefits for all citizens.
He said the announcement felt like a victory for local Republicans.
“The voters of this district voted out Robin Hayes, who was a Republican and the best representative the people of this district ever had, especially for Richmond County, to bring in a representative that is supposed to represent the Democrats,” Butler said. “Now, he is basically supporting the same ideas and platforms, in essence, that Hayes did, and doing exactly what Hayes would have done.”
Staff Writer Philip D. Brown can be reached at (910) 997-3111 ext. 32, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.