Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Robin Carnahan continued to carefully craft her public position on federal healthcare legislation Thursday, saying the Senate bill "takes important steps" without wholeheartedly backing the entirety of the complex measure.
The Senate approved the measure early Thursday, 60-39, free of Republican votes. It sets the stage for a complicated conference committee negotiation, where House and Senate Democrats will attempt to push for final passage before President Obama's State of the Union address on February 2nd.
"While more needs to be done to get tough on insurance companies by creating more competition to drive down costs for all consumers, this legislation takes important steps to stop insurance companies from denying people insurance due to preexisting conditions, and to insure nearly 800,000 more Missourians," Carnahan said in a statement.
While Democrats from the president on down billed the vote as "historic," Republicans, like Congressman Roy Blunt framed it as a catastrophic mistake clouded by "political payoffs."
"It takes huge cuts out of Medicare for seniors, to spend on new programs that don't help seniors. Families will pay higher premiums for a new system that will move inevitably into rationing and ever deeper control by a huge new government bureaucracy. State budgets in Missouri and across the nation will be slammed with unfunded mandates from Washington, threatening funding for schools, public safety, and other vital purposes," Blunt said in a statement.
Blunt also made clear that Carnahan would have been among the Democrats voting "yes" if she held Sen. Kit Bond's seat.
The Missouri Republican Party used the season to land their charge: "On Christmas Eve, Robin Carnahan delivered a lump of coal to Missouri's families, businesses, and seniors when she declared what we already knew to be true: that she would have voted for the Democrats' reckless and expensive government-takeover of health care," said MoGOP executive director Lloyd Smith.
While conventional wisdom might permit the assumption that Carnahan would have been a "yes" vote, the Secretary of State has steered clear of taking a unequivocal position on the ever-changing legislation.
In early November, Carnahan said she was both "excited and concerned" about the legislation. What's unclear is where Carnahan stands on some of the most contentious differences between the House and Senate bills -- like the necessity of a public option, the level of abortion restrictions and who to tax to pay for the massive expansion of coverage.
A recent Rasmussen Reports survey showed Missouri voters opposed to Congressional healthcare legislation by a 57% to 40% margin. Carnahan lead Blunt overwhelmingly among those who favor the plan and held a surprising edge among those "somewhat opposed."
In her statement, for the first time, Carnahan also directly took a shot at Blunt's alternative plan, which focused on reigning in frivolous lawsuits and associated health plans through larger "risk pools."
"The alternative offered by Congressman Blunt, not only would increase premiums and push more Missourians onto the rolls of the uninsured but it also would let insurance companies continue their worst abuses like denying Missourians the care they need for the sake of profits. That is completely unacceptable," Carnahan said.
Meanwhile, one of the candidates aiming to replace Blunt mirrored some of the same language of the 7th District Congressman to lambaste passage.
"States like Missouri will see their budgets wrecked with more unfunded mandates from Washington, taking away from other essential services like education," said Mt. Vernon State Sen. Jack Goodman.
Goodman also pledged to work to overturn the legislation if elected, something former House Speaker Newt Gingrich already predicted would become a major campaign theme for Republicans in 2010.
The early-morning Christmas Eve vote allowed lawmakers to get home for the holiday. CNN showed video of Sen. Claire McCaskill, who voted yes, bolting through the parking lot as soon as the job was done.
Washington's WJLA reported that Sen. Bond, who voted no, also raced to the airport for a flight back to Kansas City.
"There's a blizzard due at 6 p.m. We're due to land at 3:30 p.m. Close counts in horseshoes, but I'm not sure about landing airplanes," Bond said.