ALBANY—Representative Eric Massa is voting no on the health care bill, damn it, no matter what the outside consequences or what Barack Obama says.
“The president of the United States is coming to Capitol Hill tomorrow morning on a Saturday, to meet in groups and individually with members of Congress. I anticipate that I will be called into a room to discuss my position with him, and my position has not and will not change,” Massa said on a conference call with reporters. “My vote on H.R. 3962 will be no.”
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has said “we’re very close” to getting the 218 votes needed to pass the bill. Several other upstate Democrats in the House–Dan Maffei, Mike Arcuri and Scott Murphy–are undecided on the bill. Massa said he doesn’t like the fact that the bill perpetuates a “monopolistic” employer-based private health care system and doesn’t do enough to address “cost factors” in the system.
“It is exceptionally painful to me to not be able to bring a common sense bill on health care reform to my district, but I will not vote on something that I think will hurt the people who sent me to Washington, regardless of how popular it may be,” Massa said.
I asked him whether he was worried his remarks would cause enmity among some of his colleagues, some of whom may vote for the bill and be attacked for it later, possibly with Massa’s own words.
“Let me be very clear: I mean what I say, and I speak for myself. And while some think that telling the truth is a lost principle in Washington, I happen to believe that’s what got me here, and I will always tell people where I stand on a bill. My voters have a right to know how I’m going to vote to represent them. Period. I hope I make myself clear.”
Another reporter asked Massa if he was afraid he’ll be “taken to the woodshed” by Obama.
“If I am, it wouldn’t be the first time,” Massa replied. “Everybody loves an independent member of Congress until you’re independent. I have great respect for the chief executive, but I do not work for him. I work for the people of the 29th Congressional District, and in a larger sense, the United States of America. The president is not my boss under any circumstances. And the Constitution says very clearly that the minute I consider him to be my boss, I should no longer hold this office.”