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Published January 23 2011

Forum editorial: Rep. Berg lives up to his promise with health care vote

North Dakota Democratic leaders seem close to sophistry regarding Rep. Rick Berg’s, R-N.D., vote to repeal the year-old federal health care act. The U.S. House voted largely along party lines Wednesday night, 245-189, to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act, disparaged by its detractors as Obamacare. Berg was an original co-sponsor of the repeal bill.

The reaction from Democratic fans of the health care law has been a tad overblown. To hear them tell it, the newly elected Berg was taking away from North Dakotans provisions of the law they generally like. Critics of the congressman frequently mentioned the Frontier Amendment, which will mean more reimbursement dollars for rural hospitals. Hospital groups supported the bill because of the reimbursement change.

What did Democrats expect from Berg? The centerpiece of his successful campaign against nine-term incumbent Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., was opposition to the health care reform act. That single issue put Pomeroy on the defensive from the opening days of the 2010 campaign. The congressman never recovered because a majority of North Dakotans did not like the law (Pomeroy voted for it), and Berg’s campaign was masterful in beating up Pomeroy with his health care vote.

So when Berg voted last week to repeal the law, he was being true to at least two mandates. First, he was fulfilling a campaign pledge. Second, he sincerely believes the health care law is bad for business, job creation and the economy, a conclusion based on analyses from such divergent groups as the Congressional Budget Office and the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

The vote in the House was more symbolic than substantive. The bill is dead on arrival in the Senate, where Democratic leaders said they won’t put it on the calendar. And if, by remote chance, a repeal bill clears the Senate, President Barack Obama will veto it. There is no chance the health care law will be repealed in at least the next two years.

It’s a win-win for Berg and his like-minded colleagues. They got to vote against the law, knowing the law will not go away and features in place that people like will stay in effect. Count among them better insurance options for seniors and children.

No one – especially the state’s political class – should be surprised by Berg’s vote. During the campaign he told North Dakotans his priority was to repeal Obamacare. Last week’s vote was the first step in delivering on that pledge.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.