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Owens votes "no" on Stupak-Pitts amendment, "yes" on health care bill

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Bill Owens, the 23rd Congressional District's representative, just voted "no" on the Stupak-Pitts amendment, which would prohibit federal funding of abortion coverage in any health care plan offered through the America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009.

I asked Mr. Owens on Aug. 13, three days after he became the Democrats' candidate, what his position on abortion was.

"My view there is I think like many Catholics, I do not believe the government should be interferring or having a say in a woman’s right to choose any type of health care," he said. "Although I might be personally opposed to it for religious reasons, my strong belief is that Roe v. Wade is the law of the land and it needs to be upheld. It is a fundamental issue of an individual’s right to make decisions. And that view carries over in many, many areas."

The Stupak Amendment was seen as a way to provide cover for so-called Blue Dog Democrats to be able to vote for the health care reform bill without inflaming their conservative base.

I'll be interested to see how Mr. Owens' "no" vote plays in the district - and if it's given as much attention as his pending "yes" vote for the health care bill in total. A Research 2000 poll conducted last month during the election suggested as many people in the district were opposed to abortion in all instances as were for allowing abortion in all instances. It's also worth noting that Doug Hoffman, Mr. Owens' Conservative Party challenger, espoused an anti-abortion, anti-health care bill position - and the voters didn't pick him.

The Huffington Post's live blog of the health care debate notes Mr. Owens again took to the House floor to speak in support of the health care bill around 7 p.m. tonight. (About four hours later, he followed through on that promise and voted "yes" on the bill.)

"My district needs one thing: jobs," the Plattsburgh Democrat said, according to the blog. "In upstate New York, small businesses are the jobs engine. Over the past 15 years, they have been responsible for nearly two-thirds of all the jobs created in [the area]. But the cost of health care is grinding the engine down. Over the last decade, small business insurance premiums are up 129 percent. That means much higher expenses, more businesses dropping coverage, and a sicker, more financially-strapped work force, and enormous pressure on small business owners...

"This bill can change that. It creates a competitive marketplace where individuals and small businesses can shop for polices at fair rates. It guarantees preventive care for a healthier, more productive work force, and it encourages Americans to start businesses of their own because the cost of health care will no longer tie them to the same job. The people of my district need jobs. They need me to vote yes. I came to congress to move America forward. This will do that."

The blog also notes that President Barack Obama has used Mr. Owens' victory Tuesday as proof that the Democratic party "should rally behind the House legislation."

"He said to look at Bill Owens," a senior Hill aide who was at the meeting recalled. "There is a House seat that's been in Republican hands for more than one hundred years. But Owens didn't run away from reform. He campaigned on it. And he still got elected."

But as the Observer's Jimmy Vielkind noted, Mr. Owens' position on health care reform was far from clear until the last week of the campaign.

In fact, Mr. Owens was originally opposed to the public option - before being noncommittal about it - and then coming out for it during the Oct. 29 debate.

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