Senators away for holiday continue health debate at home

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Senators away for the Thanksgiving holiday are continuing the health care reform debate with constituents and are facing far less vitriol than during the August recess.

CongressDaily: "In a memorandum to members, Senate Democratic leaders suggested this is a prime time to frame the debate because momentum is growing after Saturday night's vote to start debate on the measure. ... The memo plays down a dispute between moderate Democrats who threaten to scuttle the language due to opposition to the public option with a state opt-out and liberals who say they might balk if that measure is dropped." Meanwhile, a talking points memo from GOP leadership claims "that the measure will cost $2.5 trillion when fully implemented"  (Friedman and House, 11/24).

White House health care czar Nancy-Ann DeParle on Tuesday praised Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao, R-La., for their roles in helping move health care reform along, reports The New Orleans Times-Picayune. "DeParle said she believes that Congress can craft legislation that will pass both (chambers) with both Cao and Landrieu on board." DeParle said that she can see the pieces of a compromise coming together on the public option, which is a sticking point for many moderate senators, but she wouldn't say what such a compromise might look like (Tilove, 11/24).

Here's a rundown of what's happening at home for some members of Congress:

Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., is facing criticism from religious leaders in Connecticut for opposing the government-run public plan for insurance, The Hartford Courant reports. "Roughly 50 religious leaders — Jews, Christians and Muslims — gathered on the sidewalk outside One Constitution Plaza Tuesday (the site of Lieberman's Hartford office), holding a banner that read 'Interfaith Fellowship for Universal Health Care'" (Sturdevant, 11/25).

Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Neb., is being aided by the liberal group Health Care For America Now with new television ads praising her vote to allow debate on the health reform bill, The Hill reports. "The spot airing in Arkansas gives political cover to (Lincoln), who is facing a tough re-election next year" (Bolton, 11/25).

The Christian Science Monitor reports that Lincoln, however, is shifting her focus away from health care to issues that can win her support from constituents, like job creation. "A recent poll by Zogby International shows Lincoln narrowly edging out a likely Republican opponent - until healthcare is added to the mix" and her poll numbers slip (Chaddock, 11/24).

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., is facing criticism from his opponents for saying that he would vote for a health care bill even if it would cost him his job, The Grand Junction (Colo.) Sentinel reports. Jane Norton, one of three Republicans seeking Bennet's seat, said his "response 'shows he's very out of touch with Colorado'" (Harmon, 11/24).

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., is calling for states to take on a bigger role to provide affordable coverage for their residents in health care reform, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports. "Back home on Thanksgiving break, Cantwell did a tour Monday at International Community Health Services, which saw 16,000 patients last year — 43 percent of them supported by Washington's Basic Health Plan" (Connelly, 11/24).

Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas, held a town hall Tuesday in Olathe, Kansas, where he brought the 2,074 page Senate health care reform bill with him, The Olathe News/The Kansas City Star reports. "Brownback said he hopes the bill is defeated because the plan that calls for 'public option' health care would put the country deeper in debt" (Wright, 11/24).

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., also brought the bill with him to a meeting with business owners and health care providers in Lafayette, La., the (Lafayette, La.) Daily Advertiser reports. "What Vitter heard was 'overwhelming opposition,' from doctors, business owners and anti-abortion advocates" (Moore, 11/25).

Sen. George LeMieux, R-Fla., "spoke Monday to more than 500 members and guests of The Forum Club of the Palm Beaches," the Palm Beach (Fla.) Daily News reports. He voiced his opposition to the bill. "'So we're going to raise taxes, cut Medicare and raise your health insurance prices,' he said. 'That doesn't sound to me like a good start'" (Dargan, 11/24).

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told WYMT in Kentucky that the bill will remain on the Senate floor for "many, many weeks with lots and lots of amendments." McConnell also said of the bill: "It cuts Medicare, raises taxes, raises insurance premiums; I don't think that's reform" (Bates, 11/24).

Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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