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Rep. Mike Schaufler is facing a tough primary challenge in his re-election bid for House District 48. Much of the criticism being lobbed his way paints him as a Democrat in name only, one who has a tendency to side with Republicans on high-profile issues.
One particularly damning mailer comes from the Oregon League of Conservation Voters. Schaufler’s face is shown alongside former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s. "Mike Schaufler Stands with Tea Party Republicans," the mailer reads.
What was the mailer’s basis for tying Schaufler to Republicans? A vote he took on health care legislation during the February 2012 session.
"When a bill to implement Governor Kitzhaber and President Obama’s health care reform plan came up for a vote in Oregon, Schaufler was the only Democrat who voted to stop it."
February wasn’t that long ago -- and this particular vote stood out pretty clearly in our minds. We thought we ought to take a look at just how accurate the accusation is.
The mailer cites its source -- "Check the Facts" -- as an article from The Oregonian headlined "A Democrat defects in the Oregon House, stalls insurance bill." The story is easily found online. Here’s how reporter Harry Esteve describes the day’s events:
"An Oregon House Democrat broke ranks Monday and helped Republicans stall a key health insurance bill, throwing into question the delicate balance of power at the Legislature.
"Rep. Mike Schaufler, of Happy Valley, provided the sole Democratic vote that sent a bill setting up health insurance exchanges back to committee and to an uncertain future."
Explaining his vote to stall the bill, Schaufler said, "We need to create jobs. We shouldn't do anything this session until we do that." He also pointed out, the story said, that "he has been making almost daily speeches on the House floor about the need to free up timber and water for job creation, and said no one should be surprised by his action Monday."
Now, this all went down on Feb. 13. Let’s fast-forward a few weeks to March 2, when the bill managed to get back to the floor for a final vote. That day, Schaufler (and, it should be noted, 25 Republicans) voted with every single Democratic House member to pass the legislation. The Senate followed suit three days later and the legislation became law.
We called the Oregon League of Conservation Voters to see what they had to say about this second vote. Doug Moore, the executive director, said the second vote had nothing to do with the mailer.
"We’re talking about a specific vote," he said. "We cite that specific vote."
But what of the overall impression that he voted to kill the bill?
"We didn’t say he voted against it. We didn’t say he voted to kill it. We said he voted to stop it," Moore argued. "Campaign communications are about talking to voters and there’s not an obligation to tell both sides of the story when sending out mail pieces."
Yes, but that both-sides-of-the-story issue can be relevant in determining what’s true and determining truth is why we at PolitiFact Oregon have jobs. We agree that Schaufler certainly voted to stall the bill initially -- and he ticked off a lot of his fellow Democrats in doing so. But he didn’t vote to kill it, which the ad implies -- even if it uses the word "stop." Whether Schaufler’s actions were justified, we can’t say, but it seems pretty obvious to us that he stalled the bill to get action on other bills and not for reasons pertaining to the legislation itself.
What’s more, Schaufler ultimately gave his blessing to the bill. In truth, it didn’t face much partisan opposition at all. It passed just five votes shy of a unanimous endorsement.
The Oregon League of Conservation Voters is trying to make Schaufler seem out of touch with his Democratic base. That’s not our call. We’re concerned with whether he was really "the only Democrat who voted to stop" the health care legislation.
Yes, he voted to stall the legislation. The statement has an element of truth. But it ignores critical facts that would give a different impression, namely that in the end he voted to pass it. That’s why we rate this claim Mostly False.
Oregon League of Conservation Voters, mailer, May 8, 2012
The Oregonian, "A Democrat defects in the Oregon House, stalls insurance bill," Feb. 13, 2012
Your Government, Bill Tracker: House Bill 4164, May 9, 2012
Interview with Doug Moore, OLCV executive director, May 10, 2012
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