by Max Brantley
Sen. Blanche Lincoln's decisive vote on opening the health legislation debate lands her photo and an article about her vote at the top of the New York Times' website this morning. Good or bad?
Republicans think bad.
As the final Democrat to reveal her position, Mrs. Lincoln helped Republicans define her as the decisive 60th vote to move the health care debate forward. The National Republican Senatorial Committee immediately issued a press release trying to make her responsible for the bill.
“The debate wouldn’t have happened without her vote and I think that will be an issue,” said Senator John Cornyn of Texas, chairman of the Senate Republican campaign group.
There is, of course, the matter of being seen as helping people who need help.
Some Democrats and other observers say they believe Mrs. Lincoln can make a case that her central role in the debate is a positive development in a state where people lack health insurance at a higher rate than the national average. The Democrats’ bill would offer subsidies to low- and moderate-income people to help them buy insurance.
Ray Hanley, who was the Medicaid director in Arkansas from 1986 to 2003, said that “in a poor state like Arkansas, where nearly 500,000 people are uninsured, many would benefit from the subsidies.”
She can't make much of this case if, as she promises, she filibusters future votes on health legislation. It is time, given Lincoln's rigid opposition to a government health option, to ask her if she would have voted for the creation of Medicare and Medicaid. If so, the followup is what's wrong in Lincoln's mind with offering working people the sort of health option available to the elderly and poor?