Rep. Dennis Kucinich, the liberal Ohio Democrat who has repeatedly vowed to oppose President Obama’s health care bill because it lacks a public option, today reversed course and said he would support the bill after all.“I’ve decided to cast a vote in favor of the legislation,” Kucinich told a crowded press conference on Capitol Hill.
Kucinich said he wasn’t backing away from his criticisms, but instead wanted to “incorporate them into this statement” in his fight to continue to push for a more drastic overhaul of the nation’s health care system. Kucinich
But Kucinich said four meeting he had with President Obama on the subject — including a chat aboard Air Force One on Monday, as the president headed to a rally in Kucinich’s Cleveland-area district — “gave me more to think about.”
“The president’s visit to my district Monday underscored the urgency of this moment,” Kucinich said. “In the past week, it’s become clear that the vote on the final health care bill will be quite close…. I know I have to make a decision — not on the bill as I would like to see it, but as it is.”
Kucinich is the first Democrat who voted “no” on the original House bill to announce that he’s switching his vote this time around. House leaders are seeking roughly 10 such votes, to make up for Democrats who support abortion rights and are threatening to vote “no” after having voted “yes.”
Last week, on ABC’s “Top Line,” Kucinich said he was still opposed to the bill — attacking his fellow Democrats for “fronting for insurance company interests” — and indicated that he would not change his mind unless a “robust public option” was included.
The liberal Kucinich doesn’t like the final version of the bill one bit. For starters, it lacks the public option he had vowed to fight for. Kucinich had called the Senate bill a giveaway to insurance companies; Americans are required to buy health insurance without having a government-run option to choose from.
But for Democrats the time for fighting their party is over. And even Kucinich will support his President, with whom he has met four times, and vote for the reform bill.
“We have to be very careful that the potential of President Obama’s presidency not be destroyed by this debate,” said Kucinich. “I feel that even though I have many differences with him on policy, there’s something much bigger at stake here for America and that’s what I’d like people to think about.”
Kucinich’s announcement will come as a blow to liberal activists who are still lobbying for a public option.
Kucinich had opposed even the more liberal House reform bill, but said the President told him what the stakes are on Air Force One.
Given his prior vote, Kucinich joked that his “proper attire might have been a parachute.”
But he said the President was convincing on Monday and part of his calculus was “what the President is going through.”
Kucinich also, at the press conference, mentioned his own outlook to health care – Eastern medicine and a plant-based diet.