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Bright: I’ll vote ‘no’ again

U.S. Rep. Bobby Bright (D-Ala.) voted against the House’s health care reform bill in November, and said Monday he’ll more than likely vote against it a second time.

Bright spoke to the Kiwanis Club of Andalusia on Monday afternoon and touched on a variety of topics, but spent most of his time discussing health care reform. Bright was able to visit because Congress is on holiday recess.

Early Monday morning, the Senate voted 60-40 to end debate on its own version of a health care bill, moving Congress closer to final passage. After the Senate passes its version of the bill, members of the Senate will meet with House members to develop a “compromise” bill that will have to again pass both houses before President Barack Obama can sign it into law.

In November, Bright voted against H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act, which passed 220-215. Monday, he said he voted against it because, ironically, the U.S. can’t afford it right now.

“The House version had a strong public option as part of it, and I’ve always been against a public option because I believe the health care industry should be driven by the markets,” he said. “I was proud when the (Senate) eliminated the public option part of it. But, there are still other parts of (the Senate bill) that are entirely too expensive for our economy right now.

“When your budget’s in a bind, you don’t continue to borrow and you don’t continue to tack on. Even though we all probably want to see every American to have access to quality health care; we also realize that right now, our economy is in a state that we can’t afford additional financial burdens.

“After it comes back from conference committee, unless it significantly reduces the expense that I know it’s going to add to our budget, I will not be able to support it.”

Bright said the most important thing for any health care reform is to control rising costs, and he does not feel either the House or Senate versions of the bill do enough to respond to this problem.

Bright said he would have liked to have seen legislation that would allow customers to purchase insurance across state lines, as well as purchase prescription drugs from companies outside the U.S. He also said tort reform is important to decrease the number of frivolous medical lawsuits and limit doctors who are forced to practice “preventive medicine” in fears of being sued.

“We should have implemented measures like these first,” he said. “Then, we could look and see where we are and determine if we need any additional reforms.”

Bright also reiterated his rejection of “cap-and-trade” legislation, saying it penalizes the South, which relies heavily on coal for its electricity, and adding that it’s a bill that may send additional American jobs overseas.

Bright will face re-election in 2010. Most analysts are predicting a tough battle for Bright, who is a “blue dog, conservative Democrat” in a district that has historically had Republican representation.

“I think it’s good that we have to be re-elected every two years, because it keeps us accountable to the people we represent,” he said. “My priority is what you need and what’s right for the 2nd District. It’s not about doing what Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats want, or what John Boehner and the Republicans want; it’s about doing what you want.