(please note: You'll notice I struck the portions where I wrote earlier that Lipinski would be eligible to buy health coverage for his lifetime after serving a stint as a congressman. Lipinski spokesman Nathaniel Zimmer said that would only kick in at his retirement. I am not certain, but debate is going on now on the health care bill and I am in the House press gallery working on Monday's column, so it is difficult to sort this out now. The central point is the same: Lipinski got insurance when he came to Congess, even with a pre-existing condition.)
WASHINGTON--With the House Sunday health care vote a cliffhanger--Democratic leaders are close to the 216 needed for passage--holdout Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.)--a diabetic--over the weekend became a special focus of Democratic leaders.
I'm told that Democratic leaders in Washington and Illinois are "confounded" by Lipinski's opposition to the bill because he is a diabetic who would find it tough--maybe impossible--to find insurance coverage if he were not in Congress.
Lipinski, a strong anti-abortion lawmaker, has said he will vote no on the bill unless stricter bans are in place to ensure no federal money is channeled to clinics providing abortions or to insurance plans offering abortions. He has other issues with the legislation, but abortion is the major one.
As of mid-day Sunday, President Obama's team is weighing issuing a executive order to assure the anti-abortion holdouts, led by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) that the Hyde amendment (named for the late Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) banning any federal money for abortion would apply to anything new created in the bill--whether it be clinics or insurance coverage. Stupak has said no final deal has been reached. A group of abortion rights lawmakers were meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to go over the executive order proposal.
People remember that former Rep. Bill Lipinski (D-Ill.) used political trickery to line-up his Third Congressional District seat for Dan Lipinski, who returned to Illinois from Tennessee to get to Congress through a rigged 2004 nomination. At the time, the scuttlebutt was Bill Lipinski wanted his son in the seat long enough in order to have him
vested enrolled in the congressional insurance coverage plan for life. Other well connected Southwest Siders stood down at the time to help out Dan Lipinski.
"It's kind if stunning that he would deprive millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions the same security he is given as a member of Congress," a vote counter close to the situation told me. "That is exactly the kind of thing that enrages folks who are out there struggling."
With his expected re-election in November, Lipinski becomes vested in a plan that will give him lifetime coverage.
Lipinski's concerns over abortion and other aspects of the bill trump provisions in it that would help people with diabetes. The bill would ban insurance companies from denying people coverage because of pre-existing conditions.
In 2007, Lipinski said, "As a juvenile diabetic, I have a special understanding of how critical it is to have health insurance and access to health care. I will continue to work to provide health insurance to the most vulnerable Americans, our children."
In 2004, after Lipinski was anointed the heir to his father's seat, he told the Chicago Sun-Times Abdon Pallasch that as a diabetic who takes multiple insulin injections a day, he wants "health care more available and more affordable."
I'm hearing that Democrats in Washington and Illinois and the labor community are so infuriated with Lipinski that they may start early lining up a 2012 Democratic primary challenger. Lipinski is immune from a primary challenge now because the Illinois primary--the first in the nation--was Feb. 2. His November re-election is assured because he comes from a safe Democratic district. But a no vote on Sunday could cause Lipinski two years of aggravation.
Since Monday, the President had at least 64 meetings or phone calls with Members of Congress on health insurance reform. I hear Lipinski is one of them.
I put calls e-mails into Lipinski and his spokesman to ask about whether an executive order would remedy his objections. And I want to ask how his own diabetic condition--and his ability to get health insurance-- is balanced against his opposition to abortion. I will update later with developments.