Just days before the final vote, East Bay Congressman Jerry McNerney still hasn’t decided whether he will vote for President Obama’s sweeping health-care reform initiative. The Pleasanton Democrat, who is probably worried about his reelection this year in a district that includes significant numbers of Republicans, told the CoCo Times that he’s leaning toward voting yes, but won’t make up his mind until he thoroughly reviews the final reform package. McNerney is the only member of the Bay Area Congressional delegation who might oppose health-care reform when it comes up for a final vote on Sunday or Monday.
Even though McNerney’s fear of a backlash among conservatives and some independents in his district is understandable, it’s hard to see how voting no now will help him this November. That’s because he voted for health-care reform last fall. So even if he helps defeat it now, his Republican opponent will be able to say truthfully that McNerney was “for it, before he was against it.” In other words, opposing it now has no real political upside for him.
At the same time, if Democrats fail to enact health-care reform, then it will only confirm critics’ complaints that liberals can’t govern, an outcome that likely will be far more damaging to McNerney this fall. After all, he’ll be a member of a party that enjoyed large majorities in both houses of Congress, along with the presidency, and yet was unable to pass its most important piece of legislation after spending more than a year trying to do it. In short, a no vote now from McNerney might turn out to be political suicide.