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Peterson explains 'no' vote on health care reform

The health care reform bills that his party pushed through historic House votes Sunday night "miss(ed) the mark on the most important things," Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said Monday, explaining why he was one of just 34 Democrats to oppose the legislation.

"I was not convinced that it was right for the people of Minnesota's 7th District," Peterson said in a prepared statement released by his office, "and so I voted against it. Some people will appreciate that and some will be disappointed, but I made this decision because I thought it was the right thing to do for the people I serve."

In a telephone interview Monday, Peterson said he felt "hardly any" pressure from party leaders to support the bill, but he said the atmosphere surrounding Sunday night's showdown on the House floor was troubling.

"It was frightening being there, and then going outside and watching what people were doing and saying," he said. "The extremes are driving this on both sides. ... It's not a good situation.

"I'm going to try to be positive and go forward now, try to make this work and make it as good as possible."

Minnesota's House delegation split 4-4 on the reform bills, with Peterson the only Democrat joining three Republicans in opposition.

Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., his state's only U.S. House member, voted for the bills Sunday night, saying the package would be "a lifesaver for North Dakotans."

Peterson said he had talked with many people in the district about the need for reform of the nation's health care system.

"The clear consensus was that we needed to reduce the cost of health care - for individuals, families, employers and the government," and to expand coverage and fix other problems "without destroying the parts of the system that are working," he said.

"If the bills we voted on (Sunday) had measured up to these standards, I would have supported them, but they did not. In my judgment, while these bills deliver some good things, they miss the mark on the most important things and will not deliver as promised."

Peterson said the legislation won't control costs and doesn't reform Medicare, and it will cover just 37 percent of the uninsured people in his district while covering an average of 68 percent of the uninsured across the country.