Columns » Max Brantley

Missing Vic

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I kept thinking one thing as the U.S. House made history Sunday with its approval of a dramatic expansion of health coverage for all Americans.

We're going to miss U.S. Rep. Vic Snyder.

Alone among our House members (just as he was alone in his vote against George W. Bush's dishonest war), Snyder joined the majority and explained succinctly:

“Middle class Arkansans with insurance will get more control over their health care choices, more power to hold insurance companies accountable for bad policies, and more affordable premiums. Medicare will be protected and improved for our seniors. 32 million Americans and small businesses without insurance will for the first time get the power and ability to get quality health insurance in the marketplace. And just like current federal law no federal money can pay for elective abortions.”

Snyder was a calm voice in the last-minute clamor over abortion. He had voted for the Stupak amendment in the House, but he distributed documentary proof, including independent legal opinion and federal regulations, that the Senate health bill provided an equivalent guarantee against government spending on abortion.

U.S. Reps. Mike Ross and lame duck Marion Berry and, of course Rep. John Boozman of the Party of No, joined Orval Faubus, George Wallace, etc., on the wrong side of history. Ross claimed he listened to his constituents, but independent polling suggests there's broad support for health reform in his poor district, particularly when voters are given an accurate representation of the legislation. Instead, he obeyed the angry minority that has always made him a spear carrier for gun nuts and cranks and an opponent of human rights.

But back to Vic Snyder. The best known candidate in the Democratic primary race to succeed him, Rep. Robbie Wills of Conway, had already said weeks ago that HE would NOT vote for this legislation. He said he wouldn't vote for outright repeal should it pass, however, and was mute Monday morning. There was some comfort that two Democratic contenders, David Boling and Joyce Elliott, volunteered positive remarks about the vote.

The Republican candidates, Scott Wallace and Tim Griffin, couldn't wait to vow to repeal the legislation. They issued statements straight from the GOP Talking Points Factory. But really. Are they right? Do voters really want to repeal:

-Barring insurance companies from excluding people with pre-existing conditions.

-Stopping insurance companies from rescinding coverage.

-Insurance exchanges that expand individual coverage and provide assistance for small businesses.

-Tax credits for more than 36,000 small Arkansas businesses.

-Expanding Medicaid.

-Linking Medicare reimbursement to “quality outcomes.”

-Health coverage for nearly a half-million more Arkansans.

-Closing the “doughnut hole” in seniors' drug coverage — a benefit to nearly 90,000 in Arkansas.

-Free preventive health care.

-Expanding funding for community health centers and rural health care.

-More coverage for kids, including an extension of the time they can stay on parents' health insurance.

It is a sad day when advocating a better society requires courage. It is sadder still to consider where many political candidates — Tim Griffin stands out, but is by no means alone — think political success lies. Their selfishness of spirit; their mistrust of a government that defends us and brings us Social Security and Medicare, and their general meanness repudiate
this country's optimistic and giving history.

Yes, we will miss Vic Snyder.

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