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Four S. Baptist Dems. vote ‘no’ on bill

WASHINGTON (BP)–Four of five Southern Baptist Democrats in the House of Representatives voted against health-care legislation approved by the chamber March 21.

Reps. Bobby Bright of Alabama, Travis Childers of Mississippi, Lincoln Davis of Tennessee and Heath Shuler of North Carolina voted “no” on a version of health-care reform passed by the Senate in December. A controversial part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, H.R. 3590, was language that the major pro-life organizations say will permit federal funding of abortion. President Obama is scheduled to sign an executive order that is aimed at appeasing pro-life concerns, but most of the major pro-life groups say the order is insufficient.

The House approved the bill in a 219-212 roll call. The four Southern Baptists were among 34 Democrats who joined all 178 Republicans in opposing the measure.

The other Southern Baptist Democrat, Rep. Al Green of Texas, voted for the bill.

After the bill was approved, Bright, Childers, Davis and Shuler voted for a Republican-sponsored motion to recommit the bill to committee that would have inserted language they all supported in November when the House approved a pro-life amendment prohibiting abortion funding before passing its version of health-care reform. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said the motion would indirectly “kill the bill,” and the Democrats defeated the effort in a 232-199 vote. There were 21 Democrats who voted for the motion.

In the final of a series of late-night votes on health care, the four Southern Baptists opposed a reconciliation bill to provide “fixes” to the Senate bill. None of those “fixes” addressed the abortion issue. The bill passed 220-211, with 33 Democrats joining the GOP in defeat.

Green voted against the motion to recommit and for the reconciliation bill.

In the days leading to the House vote, Bright and Childers both pointed to the Senate version’s failure to provide adequate protection against abortion funding as a reason for their decision to vote “no.” Davis and Shuler have been consistent pro-life votes during their House service.

The four congressmen based their opposition not only on abortion funding but other issues as well. They voted against the House bill in November after supporting the pro-life amendment.

In a written statement after the vote, Bright said he is “very disappointed in the final product” and “saddened by the fact that the discussion on one of America’s most pressing issues completely lacked bipartisanship.”

“I voted against the health care reform bill because our country cannot afford its massive cost, and I am skeptical about the legislation’s ability to bring down the government’s long-term health care obligations,” he said. “Moreover, for months my constituents have expressed their strong opposition to this bill and I cannot ignore the will of the people I represent.”

Davis said in a March 21 statement one of his “main reasons, if not the most important,” for voting “no” was the fact an “overwhelming majority of the constituents I represent opposed this plan, regardless of their party affiliation.”

In a March 19 news release, Shuler said, “There is no question that our current health care system is broken and that we need to make significant reforms to improve it in an equitable, fiscally responsible and sustainable manner. In my opinion the bill as written does not meet those criteria.”

Childers said March 18 he believes in health-care reform but still doesn’t think “we’ve gotten it right.” He said his review of the bill left him “deeply concerned about the legislation’s large price tag and the absence of sufficiently strong language to prohibit federal funding of abortion.”
Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.

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