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By Bill Wichert March 28, 2012

Steve Rothman claims Bill Pascrell “voted to remove” the public option from the national health care reform law

As Democratic primary voters search for differences between U.S. Reps. Steve Rothman and Bill Pascrell, Rothman claims that support for a government-run health insurance plan separates them.

Calling himself the more progressive Democrat, Rothman pointed out various differences between him and Pascrell during a March 16 interview on NJToday. Rothman and Pascrell are preparing to battle June 5 for their party’s nomination to represent the 9th Congressional District.

Among those differences, Rothman claimed that "Bill voted to remove the public option from the Affordable Health Care Act."

PolitiFact New Jersey checked the voting records and found that Rothman is wrong to claim Pascrell voted to remove the public option. In fact, the congressmen cast the same votes on major health care reform measures in late 2009 and early 2010.

Like Rothman, Pascrell voted in November 2009 in support of a House bill that included a public plan as part of overhauling the nation’s health care system. A public option was later scrapped in a U.S. Senate version of health care reform, which became the final law.

First, let’s explain the congressmen’s voting records on health care reform.

In a 220-215 vote on Nov. 7, 2009, the House narrowly approved the Affordable Health Care for America Act, which included a public health insurance option. Pascrell and Rothman both voted for the bill.

The following month, the Senate approved its own health care reform bill, called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, in a 60-39 vote. That legislation did not include a public plan option.

The House would later pass the Senate bill in a 219-212 vote on March 21, 2010, sending it to President Barack Obama to become law. The reform law was later modified by a separate piece of legislation.

Pascrell and Rothman both voted for the Senate bill, and the legislation making changes to it.

So, Pascrell did not vote "to remove the public option." Pascrell voted for a House bill that included the public option, but a Senate health care overhaul bill -- which became the final law -- did not include it.

Paul Swibinski, a consultant to Rothman’s campaign, told us in an e-mail that "Steve misspoke when he said that Pascrell voted against the public option. Steve meant to say that Pascrell opposed the public option."

Swibinski pointed to a January 2010 Congressional Quarterly Today article, which stated Pascrell was proposing a series of scaled-back health care bills. "No 'public option,' no mandates, no entitlements," Pascrell is quoted as saying in the article.

Sean Darcy, a spokesman for the Pascrell campaign, argued that at the time of the article, "the public option was dead." Various news articles in early January 2010 indicate that House Democrats had abandoned hopes for a public option in light of the Senate vote.

"Pascrell was still very much in favor of the public option and was extremely supportive of it," Darcy said in an e-mail. "As noted, the Senate bill did not include the public option so the consensus among the people actually fighting to get a substantive health care bill passed was that this piece was no longer an option. With all this in mind, Pascrell was acknowledging that we needed to move on and find a way to get health care reform done."

Before and after the health care reform was enacted, Pascrell publicly expressed his support for a government-run health insurance plan.

In an August 2009 opinion piece, Pascrell wrote, "Health care reform without the public health insurance option would be a hollow one." An August 2010 article on quoted a Pascrell spokesman as saying the congressman "remains a supporter of the public option."

Our ruling

In an NJToday interview, Rothman claimed Pascrell "voted to remove the public option from the Affordable Health Care Act."

But Pascrell voted in November 2009 for a House bill that included a public option. The Senate approved a reform bill that didn’t include a public option, and that version became the final law.

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We rate the statement False.

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Our Sources

NJToday, Rep. Steve Rothman Says His Opponent Isn't a Progressive Democrat, March 16, 2012

Public Health Insurance Option A Must, an opinion piece written by Congressman Bill Pascrell, Aug. 19, 2009

New York Times, A History of Overhauling Health Care, accessed March 20, 2012

PolitiFact, It's official: The public option is dead, March 26, 2010

THOMAS, legislative history of health care reform laws, accessed March 26, 2012

Congressional Research Service, A Comparative Analysis of Private Health Insurance Provisions of H.R. 3962 and Senate-Passed H.R. 3590, Jan. 8, 2010

Email interview with Paul Swibinski, a consultant to Congressman Steve Rothman’s campaign, March 20-22 and 26, 2012

Congressional Quarterly, House Democrats Urged Not to Abandon Opportunity of a 'Legislative Lifetime', Jan. 22, 2010

Congressman Bill Pascrell’s Office, Pascrell Responds to Misrepresentation of the Affordable Health Care for America Act, Nov. 25, 2009

POLITICO, Bill Pascrell fed up with 'arrogant' Democrats, Jan. 25, 2010

The Hill, Some House Dems warming to idea of scaled-back healthcare reform, Jan. 21, 2010

YouTube, Rep. Pascrell talks Health Care with Chris Matthews on MSNBC's Hardball, Jan. 25, 2010

The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, Side-By-Side Comparison of Major Health Care Reform Proposals, April 21, 2010

Email interview with Sean Darcy, spokesman for Congressman Bill Pascrell’s campaign, March 20 and 26, 2012

PolitickerNJ, Straten takes on tough-to-beat Pascrell for the second time in as many cycles, Aug. 2, 2010

New York Times, House Democrats to Pursue Health Bill Changes, Jan. 5, 2010

Associated Press, Government Health Insurance Option Appears Doomed, Jan. 9, 2010

New York Times, A Higher Price Tag Enters Negotiations, Jan. 10, 2010

Congressional Research Service, Health-Related Revenue Provisions: Changes Made by the Reconciliation Act of 2010 to Senate-Passed H.R. 3590, March 19, 2010

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Steve Rothman claims Bill Pascrell “voted to remove” the public option from the national health care reform law

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