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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Flip, Flop? Now Barney Frank says he will vote for the Senate Health Care Bill.

In an interview with TPMDC this evening, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) reversed course--apologizing for a harsh statement he released last night in the wake of the Massachusetts special election, and saying, explicitly, that if he's assured the bill will be fixed down the line, he'd vote for the Senate health care bill.

"I'm easy. I'm strongly inclined to vote for the thing, even though I don't like the health care tax thing," Frank told me. "But you know, I was ready to vote for the bill when I had people on the left yelling at me not to vote for it. So you know I'll vote for any of it... to try and move the process along."

Frank was quick to qualify his remarks, though, noting that a vote from him would require promises from leadership and the White House that at least one controversial element of the legislation would be fixed in subsequent legislation. "I take it back...I would want assurances that we were going to amend the health care tax piece," Frank said. 

Last night, Frank cast significant doubt on whether Democrats could conceivably pass a health care bill at all. In a statement issued after Sen.-elect Scott Brown's (R-MA) victory last night, Frank said "I am hopeful that some Republican senators will be willing to discuss a revised version of health care reform. Because I do not think that the country would be well served by the health care status quo. But our respect for democratic procedures must rule out any effort to pass a health care bill as if the Massachusetts election had not happened."

That statement created a bit of confusion: Did Frank think the election was a referendum on health care and that Democrats should abandon the plan? Or did he simply think it would be inappropriate of Democrats to ram a compromise bill through the Senate in the window between Brown's victory and his swearing in. Tonight, Frank laid any doubt to rest.

"I should not have put out a statement late in the evening last night when I was upset because I didn't really--I think I overstated the pessimism," Frank told me. "I really was worried--I put out a new statement--I was worried about some Democrats doing crazy things, like 'don't seat him', 'let Kirk's vote go.' I was worried about that."  (CONTINUES HERE)

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