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Barney Frank backtracks on opposition to Senate health bill: ‘I was overreacting’

By Sahil Kapur
Wednesday, January 20, 2010 19:18 EDT
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Now supports passing Senate legislation through House

WASHINGTON — Backtracking from a declaration he made just after the election of Republican Scott Brown Tuesday night, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) has tempered his opposition to the Senate health reform bill.

“I have realized that my statement last night was more pessimistic than is called for,” Frank said in a statement e-mailed to Raw Story on Wednesday evening.

“I was reacting – perhaps overreacting – to proposals I had heard from a variety of sources that we do things to facilitate the passage of a health care bill that would have sought in the short-term to neutralize yesterday’s election,” he conceded.

While maintaining his earlier position that Brown’s election is a “serious obstacle” to passing a worthwhile bill, Frank said he supports the idea of passing the Senate bill through the House.

“I should not have indicated that I would be opposed to trying that, as long as it was done with full regard for procedural fairness,” he said.

However, Frank insisted some parts of the Senate bill are too flawed and must be amended.

“The provision granting special Medicaid protection in Nebraska clearly cannot be in the final bill, and I do not think that the Senate’s provisions on taxing health care plans are appropriate,” he said, referring to Sen. Ben Nelson’s (D-NB) “sweetheart” exemption for his state, as many have called it.

He also cited the abortion language as a potential poison pill, seemingly insisting that the restrictions in the Senate bill won’t satisfy supporters of the Stupak amendment that passed as part of the House bill.

“As a practical matter, while I voted against the Stupak amendment in the House, it is not clear to me that you can pass the Senate bill in the House without some change to the Senate language, although I would not want it to get as far as the Stupak amendment.”

Although Frank’s revelation will come as a relief to many Democrats and progressives hoping to salvage something of health care reform, he wasn’t without his reservations.

“I am not optimistic about our being successful if we try to do health care this way, but as long as it is done with full regard for procedural fairness and does not put the Congressional majority in the position of appearing to take undemocratic shortcuts, I do not object to making the effort,” Frank said.

While Frank’s position eases the burden on the Democratic leadership, prospects are simultaneously complicated by the fact that at least a dozen House progressives sent a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) saying they “cannot support the Senate bill. Period.”

 
 
 
 
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