Polis’ Attempt at Leadership Damages Health Care Bill

We were critical on Friday of Rep. Jared Polis’ self-serving attempt to inject himself into the discussion on health care reform for a couple of reasons.

We thought that his criticism (in leading 20 freshman Democrats to sign a letter against some of the funding mechanisms) of the House legislation would only give footing to those who oppose reform, and it also gives credence to those who worried last year that Polis would not actually represent his district, but would largely represent himself. After all, there are surely very few Democrats in CD-2 who are going to be happy with Polis, who campaigned in a tough three-way primary that in large part dealt with the urgent need for health care reform.

We’re not sure what Polis thought he was accomplishing with his letter last week, other than trying to act like he had some sage advice on an issue that he is not an expert on, but we wonder how much he thought (if at all) about what his “leadership” might do for the public and private debate over reform. As The New York Times Caucus Blog writes today:

Congress charges ahead with thee separate health care reform bills this week, but under slightly reduced pressure from the White House. The administration does not seem to be driving quite as hard at the August deadline, perhaps under the weight of wary lawmakers, particularly Democrats…

…The Wall Street Journal adds that a group of Democrats elected in some of the nation’s wealthiest congressional districts may stand between President Obama and his efforts to pay for the reform with increased taxes. The article points out two Democrats who broke with the party line when the legislation came up in their House Education and Labor Committee last week – Representative Dina Titus, of suburban Las Vegas, and Jared Polis, who represents Boulder, Vail and some wealthy Denver suburbs. [Pols emphasis]

That’s what happens when you are one of the wealthiest members of Congress whose reputation is largely as someone who “bought” his seat, and then you go and publicly attack a funding mechanism that would tax the richest Americans. Polis looks like a dunce over this one, and if his opposition ends up crippling the health care reform legislation, he won’t be living this one down for a long time.

Polis can say whatever he wants in defense, but the bottom line is that his criticism of this bill and leading the way on the letter from 20 other freshman looks to cause real harm to the health care reform efforts. This was a boneheaded move for a Congressman representing a Democratic district.

70 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. The realistThe realist says:

    At the core of the health care access debate is that millions of people cannot afford private health insurance and cannot afford access to regular (and preventive) health care.  Even if Polis personally believes that there was a problem with the proposed funding mechanism, you would think he (and/or his staff) would be a little more sensitive to the realities of living in the middle class or below in these times.  I was with a group of Democrats over the weekend and there is a lot of anger over this.

  2. dmindgo says:

    Criticism of a Democrat?  But from what I read on this site, that’s impossible!  Kudos for telling it like it is.

    As a non-Boulder Democrat, I have to say that this confirms some old prejudices.  Much like hard-line conservatives who work for the government (Colorado Springs, anyone?), Boulder Dems can often seem out of touch with most people’s reality.

  3. sxp151 says:

    self-aggrandizement and personal gain just wasn’t paying attention to his political career.

    Every single time he’s taken any kind of leadership role (and here I’m not counting his many press releases where he claims to have led something that was already happening without him), he fucks it up, because ultimately all he really cares about is himself.

    Look at Amendment 41, which every rational person agrees was a poorly-done disaster.

    Look at his auto bailout plan, which was the last time he got cozy with the WSJ.

    He’s a saboteur when it actually counts.

    • Steve Balboni says:

      I mean, really – duh! This is Polis’ MO, he’s into self-aggrandizement not public policy. Progressives who backed him were warned that they could expect just this type of behavior. He doesn’t understand politics and his main concern is making sure everyone knows his name.

      On the bright side he’ll surely get bored with politics soon enough and we can get someone in that seat who’s interested in policy and legislating.

  4. redstateblues says:

    I still think he’s done a better job representing CD-2 so far than some are giving him credit for. If health care ends up getting scuttled because of his letter, or whatever consequences his letter might have, then it will be all anyone remembers about his first term. However, he has done more good than harm so far IMO:

    • Polis voted against authorizing funds for the President to continue Bush administration policies in Iraq and Afghanistan. He’s the only member of the Colorado delegation to do that, and it kept a major campaign promise from him.
    • He sponsored the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.
    • He was a co-sponsor of the now card check-less EFCA before the compromise.
    • The strongest advocate for GLBT rights among the delegation, he was one of the key voices in getting the Matthew Sheppard Hate Crimes Act passed.
    • He supported the president on Cap and Trade.
    • In this very bill, he helped push an amendment authored by Dennis Kucinich that would help states institute their own single-payer systems. He’s a constant supporter of single-payer, despite it being taken off the table in this bill.

    Is he helping to screw over the most important bill of 2009, and possibly Obama’s 1st term? Time will tell. I still expect him to vote for the joint bill whenever it ends up coming up for a vote, and I still think he’s done a good job representing CD-2 for the reasons listed above.  

    • sxp151 says:
      • Was a safe vote since it had the votes to pass anyway.
      • No, he was a cosponsor, one of many many cosponsors. It’s true he did claim that he invented both the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and Lilly Ledbetter herself, but he didn’t have anything to do with it.
      • The rest are things that virtually every Democrat in the House did, except…
      • Since Polis is clearly trying to kill the only actual health care bill we have or ever will, I have to wonder if his support of the Kucinich amendment isn’t meant to be a poison pill.
    • Thorntondem says:

      I have given Jared a thumbs up when he has supported good policy and good bills this year. So Jared, I need to express my dissapointment with the position you have taken on this one.

      But, to be fair, it is unrealistic to agree 100% of the time with every elected leader on every issue. Jared believes Health Care reform is important. Seems like he disagrees abit with some on the details on how to pay for it.

      We will get there. Jared we need your help.


  5. cdsmith says:

    The last time this came up, I was being swept along until suddenly it came up that this thing about paying for health care by taxing the “wealthy” might (or might not… someone could clarify) apply to me!  I’m barely making the mortgage payments on my very inexpensive ($100K) house, and though I am managing to make payroll for my two employees, it’s a month to month deal.

    So I asked, and got no answer.  Does my reality-based question just get in the way of the outrage machine?  I’m starting to think that may be a possibility.

    I’m about the most progressive person you can come up with on health care reform; but I also think the legislative process needs to be open for people to raise real concerns, without being pegged into the “pro-bill” or “sabateur” pegholes.  This is partisan politics at its worst.

  6. Jared Polis says:

    While coloradopols might have some insights into our state legislative process, they are missing the mark completely on DC.

    I am working hard to pass healthcare reform, and trying to get the support of more Freshman Democrats for the sweeping reforms. By taking a leadership role in my class I not only further the cause of healthcare reform, but strengthen my relationship with my fellow Democrats and leadership.

    We are working on a funding mechanism that will garner majority support from the House, and I’m confident we’ll get there as long as we can get the bill out of Energy and Commerce.

    I’ve taken a very active role in working with leadership through the legislative process to pass this bill, and the analysis above is simply strange.

    Jared Polis

    • Car 31 says:

      that if what you say is true, you’re receiving the above criticism.

      People who read this site and post on this site aren’t dumb, so apparently your message got lost between DC and CO.

    • Colorado PolsColorado Pols says:

      It’s been written about all across the country, including the Wall Street Journal and the NY Times.

    • 420Jan says:

      You turn your back on the middle and low income people of your district and all you can say is wow???? That Congressman is NOT good enough!

      Are you going to tell all of us that are not millionaires that we

      “are missing the mark completely”


      Are you going to tell all the small businesses in Colorado, including the very small one my husband owns, that they

      “are missing the mark completely”

      ? Their small business could no longer afford health care premiums and lost it. What happens to my  husband, who has asthma and extremely high blood pressure that is hard to get under control and who is in otherwise good physical shape, the next time he has an asthma attack or god forbid a stroke or heart attack?

      What about my son and his family including four children? He has been out of work for over 2 months and has not been able to find anything, not even in a burger joint. He had to pawn some of his carpenter tools to pay rent because they pay over $500 a month for insurance and his wife only makes $14 a hour as a licensed medical assistant. Her employer is one of Boulders biggest Medical Centers and they do not pay one penny towards their employees health care.

      What are you going to say to them when they have to choose again between paying rent, buying gas and groceries and paying for health care, go pawn the rest of your tools so you can never work as a carpenter again?!

      I am working hard to pass healthcare reform, and trying to get the support of more Freshman Democrats for the sweeping reforms. By taking a leadership role in my class I not only further the cause of healthcare reform, but strengthen my relationship with my fellow Democrats and leadership.

      We don’t need the kind of support that you and other Freshman Dems want, it does nothing for anyone but the rich. Stop worrying about being a leader among the Dems and start worrying about the people you are supposed to be representing.  

    • Ralphie says:

      who owe their offices to Barack Obama?

      He was there for you.  You’d better be there for him.

      You want to help small business?

      Fix the health care mess.  Because it’s getting to be harder and harder to afford being a small business, and health care costs are the primary reason.

      You need to quit being an obstructionist and get this done.

      • ThillyWabbit says:

        Jared Polis represents the second most Democratic district in the state, and Betsy Markey won in a district where Obama overwhelmingly lost, as is the case with many of the Dems on that letter. They don’t owe Barack Obama a goddamned thing.

        That being said, he does need to communicate this issue a hell of a lot better because right now it does look like the rich guy complaining about how his own taxes might go up.

        • RedGreenRedGreen says:

          Not exactly. McCain won by 1 point in the 4th CD. John Salazar, by the way, won in a district Obama lost by 3 points. The other districts were much more lopsided in the directions you’d expect.

        • Middle of the Road says:

          I live in CD4 and Obama damn near took our district. I know for a fact that he won in Larimer County and I also know that a large contingent turned out, larger than normal, to vote for him in smaller areas such as where I live, which helped immensely down ticket and in particular, helped Markey.  

          • redstateblues says:

            Markey won by 12. Obviously the historic nature of the election brought out turnout for people who wanted to vote for Obama, but Markey still won by double digits.

            • Middle of the Road says:

              And having an enthused and inspired voting public certainly helped her, no?  

              • redstateblues says:

                Barack Obama’s name on the ticket helped out all Democrats, and Markey was certainly no exception.

                But I think that Republicans and independents who had previously voted for Musgrave when she ran against Angie Paccione and Stan Matsunaka (who both came close, especially Angie in 2006–in fact you could probably give a lot of credit to her, because she came closer than any other Dem there until Markey) gave the edge to Marley in 2008. They were so fed up with Musgrave’s general musgraveness that they probably would have given the extra push necessary to any Democratic candidate who was on the ticket. It’s a testament to Betsy Markey’s skill as a campaigner that she won by a the kind of margin that Hank Brown and Wayne Allard used to get.

                So I think it’s flawed to say that Markey owes any more to Obama than any other Democratic representative in congress. She earned a big mandate from CD-4 through her hard work and excellent campaigning and political skills.

                Don’t take that to mean I don’t think she should support the President. I do, and I believe she has to the extent that she’s been able to.

                Anyway, I don’t want to get totally off-topic, so I’ll leave it there.

                • Middle of the Road says:

                  And I don’t believe I said that Markey owes more to Obama than other Democratic representatives in Congress. Did I? I don’t think I did.

                  I did say that I agree with Ralphie in that Obama’s incredible grassroots organization assisted her campaign in ways that cannot be discounted or underestimated. And let me just say, clearly, right now, that I very much would appreciate it if she would show her appreciation for that, and Polis also, by doing everything they can to get healthcare passed, not derailed.  

    • Emma Anne says:

      Someone has certainly missed the mark completely.  It could be everyone here, since we are all a bunch of local hicks.  Or it could be you.

    • If it comes out of committee with the current funding mechanism, will you vote to support it on the floor?

    • Jambalaya says:

      It’s OK (even, wonderful) for a nobody like me to make fun of people and talk down to them.  It’s always deserved and sometimes funny!  HOWEVER, you are not me.  It’s not a good idea to strike such a patronizing tone in a public statement:

      While coloradopols might have some insights into our state legislative process, they are missing the mark completely on DC.

      The problems with this statement are many, especially coming from someone who’s been in big, bad DC for less than 1 year.  Especially from someone who’s not hit 40 years old yet.  Especially from someone who claims to want to represent the lil’people (didn’t you claim that?).  Especially when people other than CO bumpkins are making similar observations.

      Work on it!

    • DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

      We are working on a funding mechanism that will garner majority support from the House, and I’m confident we’ll get there as long as we can get the bill out of Energy and Commerce.

      You did not propose a funding mechanism. You proposed eliminating the funding required to make this work – with no proposed alternative. You didn’t even say “don’t tax me – tax that group.” You just said “don’t tax me.”

      Speaking as someone who’s taxes would go up under the proposed funding – do it. Someone’s got to pay for this and if my taxes go up a bit in good years to pay for it – I’m ok with that.

      • JeffcoBlueJeffcoBlue says:

        In Jared’s letter to Pelosi, he does indirectly present an alternative by continually referencing the much lower corporate tax rate. If you’re Jared’s friend you can comfort yourself with that, there’s not much else.

        I think we should be clear about the nature of this problem. It’s not Jared’s commitment to health care reform, I believe he will vote for the final bill even if the funding mechanism doesn’t change – he should do this, and try to influence it in or at least in reconciliation with the Senate.

        The problem is that by breaking with the initiative to pass the bill so publicly instead of trying to amend and negotiate, he’s given cover for the Blue Dogs and moderate Republicans to oppose the bill. It’s not about the details, it’s how it plays in a 30 second news clip. That’s why Jared, if he is smart, will take the lead passing the bill now! Figure out a way to get Cranberg off his back. I don’t know if his future now depends on it, but it might. He does not want to be the man who killed health care.

      • sxp151 says:

        Polis doesn’t take genuine criticism seriously for a second.

        Observe how not just the site but every commenter (except the extreme right-wingers) is utterly clueless about the process of being rich and awesome and in DC.

        Observe how nothing gets in the way of his ego. He doesn’t merely disagree with commenters, he ignores anyone who questions his assumptions or tactics. Since that’s everyone in this case, he won’t respond to a single actual point.

        He’s an egomaniac. And ultimately, a coward.

  7. Where does Governor Ritter  stand on the Obama Health Care plan. I have heard nothing from him.

    Is the Governor standing behind the President on this one or ducking for cover?

  8. Rossputin says:

    Excuse me, my liberal friends, but just what is it about the FACTS of what Polis said that you disagree with?

    You may be all for socialism, but Polis simply lays out the numbers and explains why he thinks there’s a better chance that the original Dem bill will cost you your job than will improve your health insurance situation.

    My take on Polis’ letter is here, if you’re interested:


    While I’m absolutely opposed to single-payer socialized medicine, I have a very hard time understanding liberals who are so blinded by their desire to socialize everything that they can’t listen to a sensible economic argument by one of their own.

    While CD-2 is almost certainly a safe re-election for Polis, lots of other districts around the nation aren’t so safe for their Democratic incumbents.  It’s people like you who are bashing Polis because you don’t accept deviation from leftist dogmatic perfection even though the alternative (in other districts) might be a Republican that will cause Democrats to do very poorly in 2010.  I just hope the Dems don’t destroy the country before then.

    I think Jared Polis is wrong about many things, including his support for so-called health care “reform”.  But his point about a huge jump in tax rates which apply to many thousands of small businesses and his points about competitiveness seem so fact-based and non-partisan that your criticism of them seems very poorly thought-out.  Not that I’m surprised that the Colorado Pols crowd would be guilty of muddled thinking.

    • Jambalaya says:

      …(which, I suspect, you are not) you could read the comments in the earlier thread to which Pols linked above.

    • We’ve got a number of posters here who file Schedule Cs and S-Corp filings for their small businesses…   It’s not terribly difficult to look beyond Rep. Polis’s analysis to the larger picture – small businesses would be much more able to afford health care under the new system, and could hire better workers as a result.

      I don’t disagree with Jared on the problem – that C corporations aren’t going to be putting in under the current plan, and that, as a result, rich individuals – some operating as S-Corp or sole proprietorships – are affected more deeply than perhaps necessary.

      But I disagree on his apparent conclusion: that no health reform is better than imperfect health reform.  (And yes, Jared’s ‘No’ vote in committee is IMHO his definitive word until he answers the question I posted above…)

    • redstateblues says:

      We really don’t get enough of your “analysis” in the Post.

    • DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

      that taxes are on profit? How on earth can a slight increase in taxes impact anyone’s existing job? Speaking as the owner of an S corp I think your argument is bogus.

  9. sxp151 says:

    is that he’s on the goddamn committee. There are three committees working on health care bills, he’s on one of them. If he thought his idea was in any way constructive, he would have convinced his fellow committee Democrats. Like he claims to have done to pass the Kucinich amendment.

    Instead he’s going outside the process, and the only reasonable conclusion to make is because he wants to help kill the bill on a technicality.

    Is it to appeal to conservative Democrats and Republicans? No, they hate him anyway.

    The only logical conclusion is that he doesn’t want to pay a single cent for something that won’t help him get higher office.

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