Sometimes it’s easy to categorize U.S. Senate candidates Ed Markey and Stephen Lynch. Congressman Markey is the unreconstructed liberal, right? His values on gun control, abortion, climate change, gay rights, and virtually everything else are unequivocally left of center. And Steve Lynch is the conservative in the race – especially when it comes to social issues, most particularly abortion. He is pro-life and supported the Stupak amendment so that insurers wouldn’t be required to cover abortion. But, since he entered this campaign, Lynch changed his tone and wouldn’t try to overturn Roe v. Wade. He has supported funding Planned Parenthood because he doesn’t want to drive abortions underground. Still, although in much of the country he’d be called liberal, here he is a proud self- described pragmatic moderate and in this race clearly the more ideologically conservative of the two.
When it comes to the Affordable Care Act, however, it becomes more complicated. Ironically, Lynch’s reasons for opposing the ACA put him to the left of Markey. Lynch didn’t like that the ACA delivered 31 million new customers to the insurers but gave the industry anti-trust exemption, ensuring prices wouldn’t go down. More importantly, the ACA doesn’t include a public option, which would have created competition with private insurers and lowered costs. He’s right, but the reality was that the public option -originally considered – couldn’t get enough votes. The ACA turned out to be the only option on the floor, and those who voted yes did so because it, notwithstanding its limitations, for the first time expanded access to health coverage and eliminated denial for preexisting conditions. Markey calls it his proudest vote.
There are parallels with the so-called Wall Street bailout, where Lynch voted against sending taxpayer dollars to the big guys, and Markey voted for it because of the impact that more banking failures would have on the larger economy.
So on both of these critical votes it is Markey who was the pragmatic legislator and Lynch the populist ideologue.
Both have defensible positions on sequestration, but ironically seemed to have switched approaches. Markey opposed it because of the cuts it would necessitate and the impact on the state’s information economy, risking a further economic downturn. Lynch voted for it to prevent our defaulting on our debt. If we had defaulted, it would have raised our borrowing costs and dug the hole we’re in even deeper. He agreed with the idea that the sequester gave lawmakers 18 months (under the so-called Super Committee) to rationalize our budget in a way that addressed the deficit. Markey didn’t want to risk it.
The point to the compare-and-contrast is that we really don’t have a bad guy and a good guy here. Issue by issue, I tend to align more with Ed Markey , appreciate his standup role on a host of big issues, and his willingness to buck his president and party on matters of principle (example, his vote against DOMA). Full disclosure: I’ve known and liked him for more than 30 years, and my husband has donated to him.
But every time I hear Lynch speak (usually at the New England Council) I am struck by how thoughtful he is. He doesn’t vote reflexively and seems to arrive at his positions carefully. (As he says himself, “I don’t work for Nancy Pelosi, and I won’t work for Harry Reid.”) Both of these individuals have grown enormously in their years in office. The two are thoughtful, hard-working decent legislators. Either one is senatorial, something that can’t be said of any of the Republicans, at least not at this stage of their careers.
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