Vulnerable House Democrat Says Obamacare ’Damn Good Idea’

Representative Tim Bishop of New York, among the most vulnerable House Democrats seeking re-election this year, said he’s embracing Obamacare even though Republicans want to use the health care law against him.

“There’s a lot that suggests that this bill is a pretty damn good idea,” Bishop said today at a meeting with Bloomberg News editors and reporters in New York.

Bishop, 63, is among 18 House Democrats most at risk of being unseated by Republicans in November’s elections, according to the Rothenberg Political Report, a Washington-based nonpartisan group that analyzes campaigns. The Republican political strategy has revolved around attacking Democrats over President Barack Obama’s 2010 health-care law.

Bishop has been targeted by the National Republican Congressional Committee, the group in charge of its party’s House campaigns. The committee said in a news release that Bishop “will continue to fall in line with Democratic leadership and support Obamacare even though it is hurting New York families.”

Bishop said that with more than 8 million Americans signing up for insurance under the law, exceeding estimates, Obamacare will shed its “growing pains” and won’t be a liability.

“It’s not the silver bullet they thought it would be,” Bishop said of the Republicans.

Close Call

Bishop, who first won his House seat in 2002, was re-elected in 2012 with 52 percent of the vote. He almost lost in 2010, as Republicans gained 63 seats nationwide and won the chamber majority they still maintain. Bishop survived a prolonged recount that year to win by just a few hundred votes out of more than 194,000 cast.

Bishop’s district is in eastern Long Island, which includes the Hamptons, a popular seaside vacation spot that includes some of the nation’s most expensive properties. Obama won the district in 2012 by 1 percentage point.

Republicans Lee Zeldin, a state senator, and former U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission prosecutor George Demos are seeking their party’s nomination in a June 24 primary to run against Bishop in the general election.

The NRCC aired a TV ad in the race in February that identified Bishop as a “corrupt politician.” An ethics investigation last year found “substantial reason to believe” the former college administrator violated House rules by using his federal office to raise campaign contributions.

“Bishop did the favor, and then got the cash,” said a narrator in the ad.

Bishop’s Response

Bishop said he was asked by a friend, Robert Sillerman, chief executive of New York-based Viggle Inc., to help a constituent get a permit for a bar mitzvah fireworks display.

After the permit was secured, Bishop sent an e-mail to Sillerman saying, “Ok, so just call me the friggin mailman -- we are all set.”

“Hey, would you be willing to reach out to him to ask for a contribution?” Bishop wrote, apparently referring to the constituent. “If he donates before June 26, he and his wife can each do 5 large -- if it is after June 26, they can each do a max of 2500...”

Bishop said today he did nothing wrong other than use “cringe-inducing” language while he was “kidding around with an old friend.”

“I did not link a provision of a service to a contribution,” Bishop said. “I will defy you to find any one of my donors -- I probably have over six or seven thousand individual donors over the course of 12 years -- to say, ‘Yeah, this is how Bishop does his job.’ It’s not who I am.”

(An earlier version of this story was corrected to fix errors in Bishop’s age and the name of the National Republican Congressional Committee.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael C. Bender in Washington at mbender10@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jodi Schneider at jschneider50@bloomberg.net Don Frederick, Laurie Asseo

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