U.S. Rep. John Adler (D-Cherry Hill) was one of 34 Democrats – and the only one among New Jersey’s eight Democrats in Congress – who broke ranks with his party to vote against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on Sunday night as the House passed the healthcare reform bill, 219 to 212 votes.
Facing a challenge this year from Republican John Runyan in a GOP-leaning congressional district, Adler told the Philadelphia-Inquirer last week that tonight’s historic bill package did not sufficiently make healthcare affordable for “middle-class families, businesses, senior citizens or taxpayers.”
That assessment put Adler at odds with other Democrats in the New Jersey delegation who rose to speak in favor of the President Barack Obama-championed healthcare reform bill, including key craftsman U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-Long Branch), U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-Paterson), U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews (D-Haddon Heights), and U.S. Rep. Donald Payne (D-Newark).
“We have been told this bill would create a socialist utopia, Mr. Speaker,” Andrews said. “No it won’t. It will create a more decent society, which every man, woman and child in this country so richly deserves.”
Payne in a brief statement on the floor called the measure “a great healthcare reform bill.”
The Democrats repeatedly cited the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, which sized up H.R. 3590 (the House version of a Senate healthcare bill already passed) as an expansion of coverage for 32 million Americans, while cutting the deficit by $143 billion in the next ten years and by $1.2 trillion for the following ten years.
While all five New Jersey Republican congressmen voted against healthcare reform, U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett (R-Wantage) and U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-Hamilton) were the most vocal New Jersey opponents.
“This bill violates the U.S. Constitution and will be found unconstitutional,” Garrett said. “Never before have we been required to purchase a private product as a price for citizenship.”
Smith rose to challenge the reconciliation healthcare bill following the successful passage of H.R. 3590.
“This bill will pay for abortion on demand and subsidize unrestricted publicly funded abortions,” said Smith, on his way to falling with the minority.
Pascrell, who got into a verbal scuffle with Republicans on the floor after he said they were lying about the bill’s impact on veterans, later issued a statement.
“Tonight, the United States of America reconnected with the very principle it was founded upon. The will of the American people was carried out through the passage of the historic law in the United States Congress,” said the congressman.
“I am so proud to have voted in support of this health insurance reform legislation. Patients who have been denied health care coverage due to a pre-existing condition, seniors left stranded by the gap in their prescription drug coverage, and future generations inheriting the nation’s fiscal legacy are among the many people who will benefit from this legislation.”
Pallone, Andrews, and Holt joined House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at the post vote press conference.
Pallone said insurance companies will no longer be allowed to deny coverage for children because of pre-existing conditions or current illnesses, or be allowed to cancel coverage when policy holders get sick. The bill eliminates lifetime and annual caps; establishes an appeals process to for insurance company denials, and reduces out-of-pocket prescription drug prices for seniors. Parents will be able to keep their children on their insurance plan until age 26, and tax credits will be provided for small businesses to cover employees.
“The status quo is not sustainable, Pallone said. “Doing nothing doesn’t mean nothing will happen. The pattern of increasing premiums, the loss of coverage and wasteful spending will continue absent these reforms.”