PoliGraph: Republican ad aimed at Peterson is a stretch

The National Republican Congressional Committee is targeting DFL Rep. Collin Peterson's 7th Congressional District seat.

The NRCC, which funds Republican U.S. House candidates, is spending $41,000 on an ad opposing Rep. Collin Peterson, which will air in the Fargo market for a week.

The spot portrays Peterson, a lawmaker some consider a moderate Democrat, as someone who frequently sides with the Obama administration. To make the point, the NRCC calls out Peterson for his votes on the new health care law, which has been the subject of Supreme Court oral arguments this week.

"Peterson voted to keep President Obama's takeover of healthcare, including his half a trillion dollar cut to Medicare," a voice in the ad says.

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It's true that Peterson voted to preserve the health care overhaul, but the NRCC's characterization of the law makes this claim misleading.

The Evidence

Peterson doesn't always vote with Democrats. This congressional session he's voted with his party only 56 percent of the time. But during the 110th and 111th Congress, Peterson sided with Democrats around 93 percent of the time.

The health care law is one area where Peterson hasn't always been in step with his party. He was one of the few Democrats who voted against the legislation.

Peterson got a lot of flak for the vote, something he acknowledged at a town hall in March 2010 after the bill passed.

"I'm aware people are very much disappointed in my vote," Peterson said, citing thousands of e-mails and phone calls from constituents, according to the Marshall Independent. Peterson went on to say that, "I will support it, and I will work to make this work."

Less than a year later, Peterson voted against a Republican-led effort to repeal the bill.

But the NRCC mischaracterizes the health care law.

First, it implies that Obama has taken over the nation's health care system. This is not the case, as numerous analysts and fact-checkers have already found. In 2010, national fact-checking organization PolitiFact made the claim its "Lie of the Year."

The law does not take over hospitals, it does not include a new government insurance plan to compete with private insurers, and, while it does require most people to have insurance - the so-called individual mandate that's been at the center of the Supreme Court case - it creates health coverage exchanges where uninsured customers can shop for private plans, PolitiFact explained.

Furthermore, the law does not take a $500 billion bite out of Medicare; rather, it aims to slow future Medicare spending to the tune of $500 billion. Those savings are used to pay for other parts of the law.

Nevertheless, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office projects that Medicare spending will continue to grow into the future - just not as much as it would have without the new law.

The Verdict

It's true that Peterson voted to keep the health care law intact, as the NRCC ad correctly states.

But the NRCC's ad mischaracterizes the law Peterson voted to protect. The health care overhaul maintains - and expands - demand for private insurance and it slows the growth of Medicare spending by about $500 billion.

The NRCC's ad is at best misleading.


National Republican Congressional Committee, New NRCC TV Ad: What's Happened to Colin Peterson? He's Changed, March 29, 2012

Marshall Independent, Candidates, legislators speak at DFL event, By Deb Gau, March 29, 2010

THOMAS, roll call vote on Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, March 21, 2010

MSNBC, GOP-led House votes to repeal health care law, Feb. 1, 2011

THOMAS, roll call vote on Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act, Jan. 19, 2011

PolitiFact, PolitiFact's Lie of the Year: 'A government takeover of health care', by Angie Drobnic Holan, Dec. 16, 2010

FactCheck.org, A Final Weekend of Whoppers?, March 19, 2010

The Washington Post Fact Checker, Myths and facts about 'Obamacare', by Glenn Kessler, January 18, 2011

The Washington Post, U.S. Congress Votes Database, accessed March 29, 2012

National Public Radio, Romney's Support For Ryan Budget Has Democrats Crying Foul, by Tamara Keith, March 29, 2012

PolitiFact, Medicare 'cuts' in the health care law will hurt seniors, says 60 Plus Association, by Angie Drobnic Holan, Sept. 8, 2010

Kaiser Family Foundation, Medicare and Health Reform Tutorial, accessed March 29, 2012

The Congressional Budget Office, The Budget And Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2012 To 2022, Jan. 31, 2012