Saturday, December 19, 2009

Tom Perriello: "An Outbreak of Courage on Capitol Hill"

Rep. Perriello is getting big props yet again for his courageous stands in Congress. Adam Clymer of The Daily Beast had this to say:
It is hard to think of this Congress, as it deals with the most important domestic legislation since the 1960s, as remotely related to the Congresses of that decade, when Republicans gave Lyndon Johnson the margin of victory on civil rights despite arguments they were surrendering a chance to embarrass him....

But every now and then, there are exceptions. Consider Democratic Rep. Tom Perriello, a 35-year-old freshman from Virginia, an upset victor in 2008 in a conservative, basically Republican district. ...Stuart Rothenberg, who writes the authoritative Rothenberg Report newsletter on election prospects, said Perriello was in “deep, deep trouble,” holding one of the 12 most vulnerable House seats.”

Yet Perriello voted for the climate bill. Then, after an August of 21 town meetings, typically lasting five hours with four different tea party groups weighing in, he voted for the health-care bill. Rothenberg wrote that he “seems more interested in doing what he thinks is right than getting reelected.”

Rothenberg may be right. At a town meeting in Buckingham in August, one listener told him that if Perriello voted for the health-care bill, he would personally work to ensure Perriello’s defeat next year. The congressman replied, “That is absolutely part of the democratic process and I encourage that. If the worst thing that happens to me is that I get to be part of the House for two years and part of the greatest democracy ever invented—I can live with that.”


He refers to intense town-hall meetings as “very exciting, a positive thing in a democracy.” He voted for the health-care bill, after supporting the Stupak antiabortion amendment, as a “moral necessity” to help Virginians. But, in an interview, he said he took as much satisfaction from a White House event where a community health center in his district got a $5 million grant.

Of 13 Democratic freshmen in districts won by McCain, Perriello was the only one to vote for both bills. Perriello acknowledges those votes could make him a one-termer. “If you want to stay here too much,” he says, “then you never get done what you came here to do.”

After watching the Senate butcher the health reform legislation, it's refreshing to see that there are still people in Congress who will do the right thing--whether they think it will get them re-elected or not.

And for what it's worth, I think the folks who make doom-and-gloom pronouncements about Tom's fate in 2010 are seriously mistaken. Virgil Goode learned a profound lesson last year: underestimate Tom Perriello at your own peril. We're talking about a guy who faced down warlords in Sierra Leone and Afghanistan. I don't think he's all that scared of the Republicans.

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