In 2005, Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA-8) was one of only 21 Republicans to vote against House Resolution 639 that, essentially, authorized drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). HR-639 passed the house only to be killed in the Senate (thanks to a big show of leadership by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA)).
Reichert has gotten a lot of mileage out of these types of “courageous” votes against his own party…but he shouldn’t. After all, Reichert stupidly admitted that his voting record was built on a strategy of keeping himself and Republicans in power—even on this very ANWR vote:
Sometimes the leadership comes to me and says, “Dave, we want you to vote a certain way.’ Now, they know I can do that over here, that I have to do that over here. In other districts, that’s not a problem, but here I have to be able to be very flexible in where I place my votes. Because the big picture here is, keep this seat, keep the majority, keep the country moving forward with Republican ideals…. Not the vote I place on ANWAR that you may not agree with, or the vote that I place on protecting salmon.”
With redistricting, Reichert finds himself moving from a very competitive district to a safe district. So today, when the House Republicans took a vote on the Ryan budget—you know, the one that would dismantle Medicare and replace it with a coupon system–how did Reichert vote?
He voted in favor of it (via Publicola):
Perhaps it’s because he’s in a safer Republican district now thanks to redistricting (and the only person running against him has raised just $12,000), but US Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA, 8 ), who has broken with his party on some high-profile and highly politicized votes in the past, stuck with his party today. (In the past, Reichert voted against his party to override President Bush’s veto of a children’s health care bill, voted for the employee non-discrimination act, i.e., for gay rights, voted with President Obama and the Democrats to extend emergency unemployment benefits, and, most dramatically, voted for the cap and trade bill.
Today, the liberated Congressman from the redrawn 8th (no more rich Microsoft liberals coming after him), voted for the controversial budget pushed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) in a party-line 228-191 vote.
Last year, Reichert skipped this vote…not out of political strategy, but because his mother had just died after an 18-month bout with pancreatic cancer (and, no doubt, Medicare prevented another bankruptcy). His office suggests he would have voted for it with the caveat that:
I’ve heard from my constituents and share their concerns about reductions in Pell Grants for low-income students, oil drilling expansion in our wilderness, and how entitlement reform could affect seniors and those approaching retirement.
Today he really did vote for a extremist right-wing bill. Sure…this version is a bit less extreme than the previous version, but it is still extreme. Yes, this one lets Senior’s use their coupons to purchase their way into a Medicare-like system. (This particular modification came about with the assistance of Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR).) It’s still extreme.
The bottom line is that the bill gives tax breaks to the wealthy at the same time raising health care costs for Seniors by thousands of dollars a year. And it does lots of other bad things, like repealing key parts of “Obamacare” and cutting Pell Grants.
If this bill were to become law millions of Americans would be affected by loss of insurance, increased health care costs, uncertainty and bankruptcy.
As Publicola suggests, Riechert is free now—free from having to take strategic votes that appease his constituents against his conscience.
Reichert still represents the OLD 8th Congressional District. What his vote today did was tell many of his constituents (the soon-to-be ex-constituents from the liberal parts of the old 8th) to fuck-off. And why shouldn’t he? Yeah…as he said last year, he’s heard from them, he knows their concerns. But they no longer hold anything over him, so screw ’em.