Why Russ Feingold Voted No

One of the most surprising votes in the process to pass comprehensive healthcare reform is Senator Russell Feingold’s (D-WI) vote against an amendment sponsored by Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) to fund women’s preventive health services.  The amendment, which will eliminate deductibles and co-payments for screenings like mammograms, passed by 61 – 39, with two Democrats voting “nay” and three Republicans voting “yea”.

Writing on AlterNet, a syndication service and online community of the alternative press, featuring news stories from alternative newsweeklies, magazines and the web, Daniela Perdomo notes that the amendment “guarantees that all women will receive a free annual gynecological exam, which would include screenings for the leading killers of women – breast, cervical, ovarian and lung cancers; heart disease; and chronic illnesses such as diabetes.  It also requires insurance plans to cover a whole slew of comprehensive preventive care and screenings specific to women, with no copayments.”

Feingold’s official statement says that he cast his “nay” vote to assure fiscal responsibility.  According to Congressional Budget Office estimates, the amendment will cost $980 million over the next 10 years.  Feingold has a history of voting for fiscal responsibility, Perdomo notes.  “I can’t rail against Feingold and say that he’s shown little fiscal restraint when voting for other measures.  He voted against the bailout giveaway to the banks.  In other words, I think Feingold’s votes are often sound.  But I do think he is wrong on this one, and I pick on him because he’s normally so level-headed.”

The other Democrat who voted against the Mikulski amendment was Ben Nelson (D-NE).  Republicans voting in favor were Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Susan Collins (R-ME) and David Vitter (R-LA).

Senator Mikulski herself sums it up the best:  “Simply being a woman is a pre-existing condition.”

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