U.S. Sen. Jim Webb said he doesn’t regret his vote for the controversial federal health care overhaul. But, in a television interview aired this morning, Virginia’s retiring senior senator said the process “could have been handled differently.”
Webb sat for an interview with Chuck Todd, the host of MSNBC’s “The Daily Rundown,” who has been profiling senators who opted not to seek re-election this year. Webb, a Democrat, is leaving the Senate after just one term.
At the end of the interview, Todd (whose wife worked on Webb’s 2006 campaign) asked Webb if there was a vote he would like to have back.
“My great regret in that is that I believe the whole health care issue could have been handled differently by the administration and over here,” Webb said.
“I think the way that the process we put forward, without a clear set of principles from the administration, caused a lot of fear in the country,” Webb added. “We had seven different, or five different committees boiling up 7,000 pages of contradictory information at the time when the country was in a recession and people were talking about this other stuff.”
Asked if he regrets his vote to pass the law, Webb said, “No. In the end — I voted with the Republicans 18 times — but in the end, I voted for it. I thought we do need to move forward. We need to find different ways to work with these issues. We could have had a smaller more focused package and the country would have been a lot more comfortable with the process, as well.”
Webb had some other interesting observations in the interview. He said his own party’s “raw, interest-group politics” has made it difficult to attract support from white, male working-class voters. Webb said he recently raised the issue directly with Obama, telling the president, “How, in the name of the Lord, can the Democratic Party — the party of Andrew Jackson — only be getting 28 percent of the white, male working-class vote?”
Webb also reiterated his views about affirmative action and diversity programs, which he spelled out in a controversial Wall Street Journal op-ed piece two years ago. Webb said he supports affirmative action programs for African Americans, “who’ve had a unique journey with respect to the United States government.” But Webb said those programs should not have been expanded to include recently arrived immigrants.
“My answer is: keep affirmative action or African Americans, who are in need,” Webb said. “But the rest of it — hey, welcome to America. Everybody deserves an equal shot. If you could say that, you could change the political formula in this country in very short order.”
On foreign policy, Webb restated his position that the president “has an obligation to come to the Congress when we are going to introduce military forces” in foreign countries. He called Libya “a classic example” of a president shirking that obligation. But, he added, Congress “has abrogated its historic responsibilities in terms of providing the proper balance of power between the executive branch and the legislative branch.”
– Michael Sluss