Under intense fire from Democratic leaders and some reform activists, a progressive who was staunchly against the health care bill has reluctantly reversed his opposition, bringing his party one crucial vote closer to its passage.
"This is not the bill I want to support," Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) said at a press conference Wednesday morning. "I do not think it's a step toward anything I've supported in the past." But "after careful discussions with President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, my wife Elizabeth and close friends, I've decided to cast a vote in favor of the legislation."
Kucinich's announcement comes after months of staunch opposition to the current package. In January, he told Raw Story his party's concessions to insurance and pharmaceutical companies were acts of "madness." Last week, he said he'd be willing to cast the deciding vote against it.
His refusal to support any bill that didn't contain at least a robust public option was well-received by some progressives. The liberal Web site FireDogLake reportedly raised over $17,000 for his campaign chest. Founder Jane Hamsher now says, "We’ll be asking him to return it."
Kucinich reiterated his many concerns with the bill, primarily that it does not reign in problematic insurance company practices he has persistently assailed. "I do not retract those criticisms," he said.
While maintaining his belief that a single payer system is best way to reform the system, the congressman said he'll "support it in the hopes that we can move towards a more comprehensive approach."
"I know I have to make a decision not on the bill as I would to see it, but as it is," he lamented, acknowledging the "historic" nature of the fight for universal health care in the United States.
In response to a question, the Ohio congressman alleged he received "no Nebraska or Louisiana type deal" in return for his vote. He said his support "wasn't about the kind of deal-making that is essentially self-defeating."
"I take this vote with the utmost seriousness," a somber Kucinich said before reporters, adding that "the president's visit to my district [on Monday] underscored the urgency of this moment."
CNN notes that the congressman's announcement "has reduced the bill's opponents in the House to 204, now 12 votes shy of the 216 needed to prevent President Obama from scoring a major victory on his top domestic priority."
This video is from Fox's America's Newsroom, broadcast March 17, 2010.
This video is from Kucinich's Q&A on C-SPAN, broadcast March 17, 2010.
Editors note: The article has been edited to reflect that Kucinich may not have been the sole liberal against the effort.