Can Senator Jon Tester (D-MT), attacked for voting with President Obama 97% of the time, pivot to a more moderate position before the 2012 elections? Will he even try?
The Politico reports on speculation that Tester may drop his support for the mandate requiring Americans to purchase health insurance.
A handful of moderate (?-my question mark for use of term moderate) Senate Democrats are looking for ways to roll back the highly contentious individual mandate — the pillar of President Barack Obama’s health care law — a sign that red-state senators are prepared to assert their independence ahead of the 2012 elections.
And it’s not just health care. The senators are prepared to break with the White House on a wide range of issues: embracing deeper spending cuts, scaling back business regulations and overhauling environmental rules. The moderates most likely to buck their party include Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Jon Tester of Montana — all of whom are up for reelection in 2012 and represent states Obama lost in 2008.
Tester said his Western rural state of Montana is “libertarian in nature,” which he said explains the unpopularity of the individual mandate. The first-term Democrat said he’d be “open” to overhauling that provision if there’s an alternative that makes access to health care more affordable.
Meanwhile, George Stephanaupolos added this from his ABC News blog:
“We’re looking at everything humanly possible. I’ve always had a concern and a problem with the mandate, that we were forcing it, basically saying by the law of the land you have to buy the product,” Sen. Joe Manchin, D-WV, told ABC News today. “But on the other hand, I know that’s been the lynchpin. I’m looking for flexibility any way I can.”
Joining him in these efforts could be a handful of other Democrats who are also up for re-election in 2012: Nebraska’s Ben Nelson, Missouri’s Claire McCaskill, and Montana’s Jon Tester.
Still, it marks a troublesome prospect for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid if a group forms within his caucus to take aim at the health care law. Republicans have made the issue their number-one push in the new Congress, with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell forcing a Senate vote on repeal last week.