Tom Price
Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

It’s true that Barack Obama won Indiana in 2008, but he lost it in 2012 and Clinton took a shellacking there this year. Even Evan Bayh couldn’t carry the Hoosier State which seems to have come down with a case of Trump Fever. It’s unlikely that Joe Donnelly would be serving in the Senate if he had not had the good fortune to run in 2012 against Richard “God Loves Rape Babies” Mourdock, and Donnelly is definitely one of the most vulnerable Democrats up for reelection in 2018. There have already been a series of articles written about Donnelly (as well as other red state Democrats like Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Manchin, and Claire McCaskill) that argue he will feel compelled to cooperate with President Trump. However, when it comes to confirming Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Health & Human Services, Donnelly is in the “Hell No” caucus.

Today, U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly announced that he will vote against Congressman Tom Price, a leader in pushing for Medicare privatization, who has been nominated by President-elect Donald Trump to serve as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. Price, the current House Budget Committee Chairman, was an architect of the Republican budget that would end the Medicare guarantee to seniors and transform it into a voucher program. In addition he has helped lead discussions on overhauling and privatizing Medicare and has said it is a top priority.

Donnelly said, “Tom Price has led the charge to privatize Medicare, and for this reason, I cannot support his nomination. I am ready to work with anyone who wants to improve access to quality health care for Hoosier families and seniors, but the nomination of Tom Price would put us on a direct path to end Medicare as we know it, which would raise health care costs and break a fundamental promise to seniors. I have fought to protect Medicare, and I will continue to oppose efforts to privatize Medicare or turn it into a voucher program.”

Last week Donnelly reiterated his commitment to Medicare and his opposition to privatizing Medicare, saying in part in a video message, “Let me say unequivocally to you now: I have fought to protect Medicare for this generation and for future generations. I have opposed efforts to privatize Medicare in the past, and I will oppose any effort to privatize Medicare or turn it into a voucher program in the future. If my colleagues have pragmatic ideas that strengthen Medicare, reduce the costs of care, crack down on waste, fraud and abuse, count me in, but if they want to phase out Medicare, or privatize the system, count me out.”

So, there’s a line in the sand from a Rust Belt Democrat.

Tom Price is a nut, and his birther-curious stance appears to be more than an act.

You have to wonder about a public official who feels compelled to raise the issue of the president’s citizenship with an African-American stranger he’s sharing a row of seats with on an airplane. If that man is a writer for New Yorker and a professor at Columbia University, all the more so.

Sarah Kliff has a good Vox explainer on the Obamacare replacement bill that Tom Price offered in the House, as well as the other plans that are getting bandied about. I think it’s safe to say that the Republicans are gearing up to do some deeply unpopular things with our health care system. This will be true for governors who want Medicaid money, insurers who want a system that is profitable and attractive to their customers, the elderly who want their Medicare guaranteed, veterans who live the veteran’s hospital system, people in their 50’s and 60’s who want affordable insurance policies, folks who have preexisting conditions and want protection from loss of coverage, and millions of people who won’t be able to afford the stingy subsidies on offer and will now lose their access to health care.

Sen. Donnelly is smart to oppose all of this, and to oppose it by going on the record early as opposing the man who will implement it all.

This isn’t the kind of obstruction and opposition that Rust Belt voters will punish.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at