Childers feels heat as health vote closes in

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Tea party ralliers today will rally today to ensure that U.S. Rep. Travis Childers of Booneville stays in the “no” column on President Obama’s health care plan.
But as of Monday, the Democrat still had not indicated where he would land on a final vote, only repeating his earlier statements about his ideas of a bill he could support.
The ralliers will make their point at noon in front of Childers’ Tupelo office on West Main Street.
“Travis Childers voted no last November on the health care bill,” organizer Grant Sowell said, “but we need to ensure that his vote has not changed.”
Their demands are just part of the pressure Childers is feeling on legislation his party’s leader promotes as the hallmark of his presidency.
Democratic House members are under intense pressure from the White House and other party officials to vote yes.
Monday, Childers declined to say anything new about what he’ll do when the time comes.
Spokesman Dana Edelstein issued his oft-repeated stance:
“I remain committed to effective, fiscally responsible health care reform that will lower premiums for hard-working Mississippians, ensure coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions, prohibit federal funding for abortion and provide equal access to care for individuals in rural communities.”
Childers also has said America needs health care reform, but Congress needs “to get it right, not just get it fast.”
A vote could come this week.
Dr. Marty Wiseman, director of the Stennis Institute of Government at Mississippi State University, terms it “one heck of a leap of faith” that Childers could support the overhaul in hopes that his Northeast Mississippi constituency could come to embrace it.
“If he could be able to point to his vote, down the road, and say I voted yes when nobody else would,” Wiseman reflected, “it’s a very long leap and it would be difficult.”
Childers, who is aligned with the moderate to conservative Blue Dog Democrats, faces perhaps the most significant vote of his nearly two-year career in Washington. He won a special election in the spring of 2008 to replace Roger Wicker of Tupelo, who was appointed to the U.S. Senate in late 2007.
That November, Childers won a full two-year term.
He’s weathered votes against the financial institutions bailout and for the federal stimulus program. But the health care vote comes less than eight months before he faces re-election.
The widely respected Cook Political Report terms his race “a toss-up.” It labels re-elections “solid D” for Mississippi Democrats Rep. Bennie Thompson of Bolton and Gene Taylor of Bay St. Louis, and equally strong for Republican Rep. Gregg Harper of Brandon.
The Blue Dogs are not expected to vote as a bloc this time, said Edelstein.
MSU’s Wiseman predicted that if the measure passes, “In five years, it’s going to be very, very popular.”
He bases that view on the history of controversies surrounding passage of Social Security and Medicaid programs, which were very unpopular as proposals. “But you don’t see anybody wanting to repeal them now, do you?” he assessed.

Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@djournal.com.

Tea Party rally
When: Today, noon

Whre: Childers’ office north side of Fairpark District next to Park Heights restaurant.