Gordon says he 'misread' amendment on key vote

Friday, August 14, 2009

Marshall County's representative to the House of Representatives found himself at the center of battles over health care and abortion recent when he changed his vote, defeating an anti-abortion amendment.

After originally voting for the amendment -- which would have banned private insurers from paying for abortions -- Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Murfreesboro) cast a decisive vote against it. Coupled with the vote of Rep. Zack Space (D-Ohio), the amendment was defeated, 30-29.

Gordon said he "misread" the original amendment and that had he not misread the amendment, he would have voted against it the first time around.

Gordon said he always supported a ban on the use of federal funds to pay for abortion, but eventually voted against the bill because the amendment would have extended the ban to private insurance companies.

"I believe any health care reform plan Congress passes should continue to ban the use of federal funds for abortions," Gordon said in a statement later Wednesday. "On July 30, I voted for another amendment, which passed, that would do just this -- maintain the current federal ban on using taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions."

The late-night drama came in the Energy and Commerce Committee. Gordon and conservative Democrats joined Republicans to support it --- then failed less than two hours later when committee chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) used a procedural maneuver to bring it up for a second vote.

Republican critics said Gordon was influenced by Waxman.

"Congressman Gordon was not strong-armed by Congressman Waxman," Gordon spokesman Kinsey Kiriakos said. "The Congressman has a consistent voting record -- he has always supported the federal ban on using taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions. However, he does not believe this ban should be extended to private insurers.

"Many people have misinterpreted the failure of passing the amendment to mean that private insurance companies are now required to provide some sort of coverage for abortion services. This is not the case -- the amendment's failure allows private insurers to independently decide whether or not they will cover abortion services."

The House bill, whose total costs are estimated at about $1.5 trillion over 10 years, would eventually cover nearly all the uninsured.

Low-income people would be helped through an expansion of Medicaid, while middle-class workers and their families would receive federal subsidies to pick a plan through a new insurance purchasing pool called an exchange. A government-sponsored plan would be available through the exchange, alongside private coverage. The main expansion of coverage would not come until 2013 -- after the next presidential election.

To pay for the bill, Democrats are proposing a combination of cuts in government health care programs and a tax increase on the wealthy of more than $500 billion over 10 years. The higher taxes would take effect right away.

The bill would also add more than $200 billion to the federal deficit. That's because it doesn't offset the cost of a provision that raises projected Medicare payments to doctors.

"We have agreed we need to pull together," said Waxman.