Hip deep in health care 

Ross and Lincoln had major roles in 2009's biggest show


As chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Wilbur Mills was long in the thick of things, including the creation of Medicare 40 years ago, and Sen. J. William Fulbright's influence in foreign affairs, especially during the Vietnam war, made him an international symbol of high-toned dissent. But that was way back, and even then it was rare for twomembers of the Arkansas congressional delegation to be so prominently engaged with the same great issue at the same time, and to be so widely and earnestly censured, as were Sen. Blanche Lincoln and Rep. Mike Ross in the fight over health-care reform. For all they did, and didn't, they're the Arkansas Times' of the Year for 2009.

Ross, a leader of a conservative Democratic faction known as the Blue Dogs, negotiated with President Obama and congressional leaders, but wound up voting against the House version of health-care reform, calling it “fiscally irresponsible.” The bill passed anyway.

Lincoln was a member of the Senate Finance Committee, which wrote the original version of the Senate's bill. That bill was revised many times but it resembled the original when Lincoln cast one of the 60 votes needed for Senate approval. She said the bill was imperfect, but “a vast improvement over the status quo.” She was among a small group of senators who worked out an alternative to the divisive “public-option” provision.

The two versions of reform must be reconciled by the two houses before final passage. Very likely, a government-run health insurance program ? authorized in the House version but absent from the Senate version ? will be absent from the final bill.  Both Ross and Lincoln opposed the “public option,” as did insurance companies and right-wing Republicans. Liberal Democrats were loudly dissatisfied with the two Arkansans.

Ross has generally pleased conservatives, and there are many of them in the Fourth Congressional District. Lincoln seems to have pleased hardly anybody on health care, and has been maligned left and right by columnists, bloggers and authors of letters to the editor:

“Blanche Lincoln does not deserve to be re-elected. Again and again she has proved that she cares more about the interests of corporations than she does about the well-being of Arkansans. She fought for a giveaway to drug companies, but worked for the insurance companies to kill the public option. She's happy to advocate for eliminating the estate tax for the wealthiest Americans, but doesn't believe working Arkansans should have the right to unionize for better pay and benefits. …  ”

“Thanks to Sen. Blanche Lincoln for helping to ruin Christmas and endanger the nation if this horrific health care monstrosity isn't stopped. Maybe she's happy that she supported the sick leftist, progressive radicalism of Barack Obama and his Chicago thugs, but her constituents are not. Of course, that means nothing to her now, since she and the rest of her arrogant Democratic goons have clearly demonstrated that they could care less what the American people think, but it may make a big difference come election time.”

Lincoln is regularly threatened with political ruin for being too liberal. And for being too conservative. One is reminded of the Arkansas Supreme Court throwing an initiative off the ballot for being excessively long, and unacceptably short.

Both Ross and Lincoln are up for re-election. Ross is said to be safe, Lincoln otherwise. The national Republican Party plans a major campaign against her, and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the state's largest newspaper, has already opened fire. The notorious Karl Rove recently gave money to an Arkansas politician seeking the Republican Senate nomination.



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