Rep. Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii on Friday reiterated his intention to retire at the end of the month to run for governor, and oddly blasted me for writing a blog post suggesting it would complicate Democratic efforts to pass a health care bill.
Here’s what Rep. Abercrombie wrote in an editorial/letter to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin published today, in full:
Recently, the Star-Bulletin published an article (“House will feel loss of Abercrombie,” Feb. 11) and wrote an editorial (“Minus Abercrombie, health care reform needs true bipartisanship,” Feb. 12) suggesting that national health care might hinge on my vote in the House.
The source of this hypothesis is a blogger for the conservative American Spectator who theorized that the death of U.S. Rep. John Murtha and a handful of resignations including mine would turn last November’s 220-215 vote for health care reform in the House into a 216-216 tie.
It would be a great story if it were based in any truth of how a bill becomes a law. It’s not.
Simply put, if another health care bill comes before the House, it will be the result of an agreement with the Senate and significantly different than the one voted on in November; it will be a different bill and a different vote.
Those who want to kill health care reform are grasping at anything to prove that they have the momentum to block the president.
A year ago, when I made the decision to run for governor, I hoped I would be able to run and serve in Congress at the same time. But, it soon became clear to me that I had to fully commit myself to becoming governor.
Anyone listening to the people of Hawaii knows that these are difficult times. People want and need a leader who is all in and ready to govern from day one.
I stand by my decision because I think the people expect and deserve leaders who make their intentions clear. Right now Hawaii needs a leader who will listen to the people and be totally committed to the job. The office of governor is not a stepping stone. I have no other desire than to use all my accumulated experience and relationships to serve the people of Hawaii as governor.
As a congressman, I was completely committed to serving my constituents. Now I am completely committed to becoming the governor that the people of Hawaii need and deserve.
A few things worth commenting on. First, it was Abercrombie himself who said that it was important for him to stick around to be a vote for the health care bill. Here’s what Abercrombie said in his statement announcing his retirement in January:
“Since announcing my intentions, I have consulted closely with the people I have worked with during my 19 years in Congress, including members of the Hawaii congressional delegation, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and the chairmen of two of my committees, the House Armed Services Committee and the Natural Resources Committee. These discussions have helped me to ensure that I will be able to fulfill the remaining duties requiring my presence in the House. This work, most notably, involves providing my continuing support for legislation on health care and the Akaka Bill.”
In his editorial today, Abercrombie is correct that the version that passed the House is different than the Senate version, but that cuts both ways. For instance, the Senate version does not include Rep. Bart Stupak’s more restrictive language on public funding for abortion, which Stupak says will cost Pelosi 10 to 12 votes. Are there other elements that could win over some of the 39 Democrats who voted against the House health care bill, even though the political environment is rougher for Democrats than when the House first voted in November? Perhaps. But it’s undeniable that it will be a close vote, and losing Abercrombie’s vote will make passage more difficult.