Barrasso apologizes for error

Wyoming senator said Utah congressman voted for health care reform
2010-03-24T00:00:00Z Barrasso apologizes for errorJEREMY PELZER Casper Star-Tribune The Billings Gazette
March 24, 2010 12:00 am  • 

CHEYENNE — U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., tried to call a Utah congressman on Tuesday to apologize after falsely claiming on national cable news that the lawmaker voted for the federal health care reform bill after his brother was appointed a federal judge.

Speaking with Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren on Monday, Barrasso said, “In Utah, a member from Utah that voted on the bill, he was against it and then he was for it. And what a coincidence that his brother just got named to be a federal judge.”

U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson’s brother Scott was recently nominated by the Obama administration to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

However, Jim Matheson, a Democrat, voted “no” during all three House votes on Democratic health care reform bills this session: the House bill in November, as well as both the Senate bill and the reconciliation bill Sunday.

Barrasso spokesperson Emily Lawrimore said Tuesday that the senator “misspoke” and placed a call to the congressman to apologize.

As of early Tuesday evening, though, he hadn’t yet spoken with the congressman, said Matheson spokesperson Alyson Heyrend.

Asked what Matheson thought about Barrasso’s statements, Heyrend said, “Obviously he thinks it’s pretty unfortunate that the senator would say something false about his voting record on the news.”

As for how Barrasso got his facts wrong, Lawrimore said, “I think there were a lot of different stories last week about the appointment, and that’s how he got or had the wrong idea.”

Indeed, in recent weeks there have been — mostly from right-of-center media outlets — questioning whether Scott Matheson’s appointment was intended as a quid pro quo for his brother’s support of the Democratic health care bill.

Until Saturday, Matheson had stayed mum on whether he planned to vote for the $938 billion reform package that, among other things, extends insurance coverage to roughly 32 million additional Americans, requires most Americans to purchase health insurance and obligates larger employers to provide coverage to their workers.

Barrasso, an orthopedic surgeon who is one of two doctors in the U.S. Senate, has been a vocal opponent of the health care reform bill, appearing regularly on cable TV news to attack the massive Democratic health care bill.

“I think this is going to be bad for patients, it’s going to be bad for practitioners, for our doctors and our nurses, and it’s going to be bad for payers,” Barrasso said Tuesday in an interview on MSNBC.

Wyoming Democratic Party spokesperson Brianna Jones said that throughout the health care debate, Barrasso has been “fear-mongering and having a very, very loose relationship with the truth.”

“I think it was great that he was willing to apologize,” Jones said. “But on the other hand, I think it belies a greater need to focus on the facts.”

contact Jeremy Pelzer at or 307-632-1244.

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