Congressman Brian Bilbray (file photo)
Thursday night, KPBS opened its Evening Edition with analysis of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on health care reform and offered some startling news.
“Congressional Republicans are angry about the decision but one from San Diego says he won’t vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act,” said Joanne Faryon, the show’s anchor. She was referring to U.S. Rep. Brian Bilbray.
If even one Republican were to withdraw from a commitment to repeal the law, it would be significant. They’ve so far presented a united front. Bilbray is in a tough re-election contest and a flip toward support or acquiescence on health care reform would shake things up as he fights off former City Councilman Scott Peters.
We passed along Faryon’s interview and interpretation in Friday’s Morning Report. A reader wrote in to say he called Bilbray’s office only to find out it wasn’t true: Bilbray was still a solid vote for repeal.
“The Congressman never said that and he’s on the record as voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act,” said Fred Tayco, Bilbray’s spokesman.
So what’s going on? I tried to figure it out.
Faryon was teasing an interview with Bilbray. In the actual interview, she asked if Bilbray supported Congressional Republican leaders’ pledge to repeal the bill after the Supreme Court’s decision.
But instead of confirming, Bilbray jumped to a related topic. He touted a bill he’s sponsored to fund research into skin cancer. His daughter, Briana, is suffering from stage III melanoma.
The money for that research would actually be taken from tax revenue raised by the Affordable Care Act.
Health care reform imposed a tax on tanning salons and it’s that money that Bilbray wants to redirect to cancer research. However, if Republicans are able to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Bilbray’s skin cancer research act would not have any funding.
That’s OK, Bilbray’s team says. He’s still wants to repeal, has voted for repeal in the past and will do it again. If the Affordable Care Act goes down, so be it.
“We are already looking for other sources of funds if Mr. Bilbray’s law goes forward,” Tayco said.
Faryon again asked Bilbray if he would repeal the Affordable Care Act, but she combined it with another question and he never said he’d repeal the law.
Tayco assured me he would. But for now, the Affordable Care Act is still law. And as long as it’s law, Bilbray wants to take its funding.
“Until the point where it’s not law the funding source currently exists and the best use of those funds is melanoma research,” Tayco said.
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