Disappointed Democrats decried U.S. Representative Frank Kratovil’s vote against the health care bill HR3962, which passed in the U.S House of Representatives with a five-vote margin. President Barack Obama, in an e-mail to his supporters, said the vote made history. Kratovil’s vote brought disappointment for many Democrats in the 1st District, which includes the nine counties on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and parts of Baltimore, Harford and Anne Arundel counties.
Carl Widell, chairman of the Talbot County Democratic Central Committee, said it is safe to say that Democrats in the county are disappointed. “Democrats are very disappointed with his vote,” he said. “But it’s not the final vote. The Senate has to come up with a bill, and then it will go to conference. He has a history of voting no on these kinds of bills, then on the final vote, voting with the party.”
Catherine Poe, president of the Talbot County Democratic Forum, also is disappointed. “Passing this bill was historic by any measure,” she said. “It’s a defining moment for our country, and I’m sorry to see he didn’t see fit to vote for it at this time and be part of the history-making process. For his constituents in the 1st District, it’s a real letdown.”
Poe, along with other local Democrats and more than a few Republicans, supported Kratovil during his campaign. At the forum’s annual meeting in 2008, U.S Senator Barbara Mikulski, D-MD, endorsed the former Queen Anne’s County prosecutor and gave him a $3,000 check for his campaign. Kratovil said at that meeting he wanted to fix health care problems before the cost affects middle-class families. He also said at a July fundraiser that principle is more important than party, and said throughout the campaign that he votes on fairness, not politics.
Still, most of the local Democratic leaders said that, while disappointed, they believe Kratovil will vote with his party in the end. “He’s really cutting it close here and making people uncomfortable,” said Joyce Scharch, head of the United Democratic Women’s Club. “But I’m absolutely sure he will come around before it’s finalized. That came from his office, and I’m hoping they won’t back down on their word.” Scharch spent time e-mailing people and urging them to call, write or e-mail the congressmen to support the bill.
In a statement, Kratovil said he supported health care reform but not a bill that does not lower health care spending. “I was not able to support the bill before Congress today because I do not believe it meets my criteria for a sustainable solution,” he said. “While I recognize the need for reform and I applaud some aspects of this bill, I do not believe that this bill offers a sustainable solution. I will continue to work with my colleagues to pursue a better bill as this process continues, and I urge constituents to continue to offer their input.”
“He told me he was going to vote no,” Poe said. “I did speak to him and try to tell him why I felt he should be voting for this bill, but he had already made up his mind. We did have a discussion and I disagree. Kratovil did not think the bill was fiscally responsible, Poe said. A member of the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of conservative Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives, Kratovil called for pay-as-you-go economic policies during his campaign, and continues to show fiscal restraint. “It’s the prosecutor in him,” Scharch said. “He’s dealing with strictly facts, but you have to give a little to get a little. Don’t lose the bill for a couple little things we can work it out later.”