A Democratic Primary between Bill Pascrell and Steve Rothman has turned into a sumo wrestling match to the left, with both campaigns ravaging each other as they try to lay claim to their party’s progressive mantle.
This week, Team Rothman tried to get around the wimp tag hung on them early by the Pascrell Camp by attempting to depict Pascrell as panic-stricken in the face of a 2010 Tea Party onslaught, straining credulity in the process.
The message-makers at Vision Media unveiled a YouTube video that splices Max Headroom-like cuts of Pascrell apparently getting tongue tied under questioning by MSNBC News Personality Chris Matthews.
Rothman Spokesman Paul Swibinski said the cuts provide evidence that supposed tough guy Pascrell folded under pressure when political waters turned choppy on the public healthcare option.
“Abandoning health care is just one of many critical issues where Bill Pascrell broke faith with the progressive principles of the Democratic Party,” said Swibinski. “Our campaign will make it clear that Steve is the only true progressive in this race.”
In a NJTV interview, Rothman personally doubled down on the argument, leaving Pascrell partisans dumbfounded by what they called the Rothman Team’s truth-twisting.
“On Friday afternoon, Rothman told NJTV host Mike Schneider that he was more progressive than Congressman Pascrell because (Bill Pascrell) voted to remove the public option from the Affordable Healthcare Act,” said Pascrell Campaign Manager Justin Myers. “Mr. Rothman has yet again gotten it wrong. Frankly, we cannot take what he has been claiming at face value. The fact of the matter is that Rep. Pascrell demonstratively worked in support of providing a public health insurance option for all Americans, and continues to want to amend the act to include a public option.”
Myers said Pascrell, as a member of the Ways and Means Committee who helped to write the Affordable Care Act, voted against Republican U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan’s amendment to the health care reform bill to eliminate the public option in a committee session. Rep. Pascrell also voted aye on the final bill in committee (which included the public option), as well as yes on the House floor vote passing the measure (which also included the public option), making three votes in support of the inclusion of a public option.
“But it was between the votes that Pascrell showed his true leadership for those Americans demanding health care reform that included competition for health insurance from a government-run plan,” said the campaign manager. “In July 2009, Congressman Pascrell, the late Congressman Donald Payne, and Congressman Albio Sires were the only three members of the New Jersey delegation to stand with fellow Democrats who urged then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other House leaders to keep the public option in the health care reform legislation.”
The Rothman video depicts Pascrell’s opposition to the Senate version of the healthcare bill as the equivalent of Pascrell opposing the public option. But the Senate version of the bill lacked the public option, and as the much watered-down bill returned to a House that had already voted aye on the public option bill favored by both Pascrell and Rothman, Pascrell expressed his displeasure with the legislation.
Swibinski said Pascrell’s waffling when faced with the Senate version indicates dereliction of progressive duty and a break of faith with the president.
On the eve of the second anniversary of President Obama signing the Affordable Care Act into law on March 23, 2010, the Rothman video highlights Pascrell telling Matthews that the House of Representatives should “do nothing” rather than pass the Obama reform.
The bill won’t pass in the House, Pascrell told the host. In fact, the House did adopt the Senate Bill on March 21, 2010.
“With friends like Bill Pascrell, President Obama’s health care reform didn’t need any enemies,” said Swibinski, noting a Congressional Quarterly article that says Pascrell at the time did not favor renewing the public option as part of the House’s second go round on healthcare reform. “When the pressure was on after Republican Scott Brown won Ted Kennedy’s seat in Massachusetts, Bill Pascrell panicked and ran away and tried to get House Democrats to join him.”
Team Pascrell denounced Swibinski’s interpretation as silly season spin, and used the opportunity to remind people that Rothman ran away from a general election fight with U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett (R-5).
“This video is disingenuous to the point of being laughable,” said Pascrell Spokesman Sean Darcy. “The reality is that leaders lead and followers follow. The so-called progressive would not even sign a progressive caucus letter in support of the public option, while Bill Pascrell did that and more. As New Jersey’s only member of the Ways and Means Committee, Congressman Pascrell voted to support a public option three times, and helped write key provisions of the bill. Congressman Pascrell has a record of standing up tall in the fight against Tea Party extremists for middle-class taxpayers while Steve Rothman has a record of standing on the sidelines. Congressman Rothman had his chance to take on a Tea Party Conservative to try and take back the House and help advance the President’s agenda. He chose to primary a Democrat instead.”
Watch the Rothman video here…