Former Rep. Owens Recalls Pressure Over Obamacare Vote
Obama tried making the final sell, left strong-arming to others
As Republicans prepare to vote on a repeal of the 2010 health care law, former New York Democratic Rep. Bill Owens recalled the pressure that came with voting on the original legislation.
Ahead of the vote, Owens was “uncertain but leaning toward yes” and was wooed by the Obama administration, with then-Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and Nancy-Ann DeParle, Obama’s deputy chief of staff and point person on health care, paying him a visit.
Then President Barack Obama called.
“It was more of a soft sell from him,” Owens told the Press Republican. “He talked about how he felt the bill was going to do important things for American families and he would really appreciate my support.”
Strong-arming was left to others — he said he faced threats from party leaders about committee assignments.
“It can be unbelievable, and I am sure they are going through exactly that process right now,” he said.
Still, Owens said he didn’t get anything in return for voting for the law.
“The only thing I would say is that maybe they were a little more happy and eager to support me the next time I ran,” he said.
Owens won a special election in 2009 with the backing of national Democrats after Obama appointed his predecessor, John McHugh, to be secretary of the Army. He was about four months in office when the vote came on the Affordable Care Act. He decided against running for re-election to the seat now occupied by Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik.