Joe Biden emphasizes health care as he stumps in St. Charles for congressional candidate
In a speech that began by focusing on how "words matter" in the wake of bomb threats and the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, former Vice President Joe Biden used his own words to address a health care issue that has become a focal point in the 14th Congressional District race.
Biden appeared Wednesday at the Kane County Fairgrounds in St. Charles to help rally support for Democrat Lauren Underwood. It was the second of at least three high-profile political figures who have injected themselves into the contest. Incumbent Republican Randy Hultgren made a surprise appearance with President Donald Trump Saturday in downstate Murphysboro. House Speaker Paul Ryan will join Hultgren in Spring Grove Friday afternoon.
Biden's speech noted recent acts of violence and called for all politicians to realize that "our opponents are not our enemies; they are our opponents." But it was his focus on health care that drew the loudest roars from the audience of about 1,400 people.
Biden said any Republican who, like Hultgren, claims the GOP-backed American Health Care Act would have guaranteed coverage of pre-existing conditions is "simply lying about their commitment to pre-existing conditions."
"It's simply not true," Biden said. "They are either not telling the truth, or they are really stupid. There is no way you can afford to cover pre-existing conditions without everybody being in on the deal. I've not heard anybody suggest how you can do it."
Biden went on to say that dismantling the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, is just the first step Republicans will take to slash government spending in an effort to provide financial support to tax cuts for the wealthy.
"They've never supported Medicare wholeheartedly," Biden said. "They've never supported Medicaid wholeheartedly. And they think Social Security is much too generous."
At recent appearances, including the lone public debate with Hultgren last week, Underwood, a nurse from Naperville, has hammered home the notion that continuing to elect Republicans threatens insurance coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. Hultgren said at the debate he has supported Republican health care plans that "guarantee" coverage for pre-existing conditions. He's followed up with mailings that claim Underwood either has not read the GOP's American Health Care Act or does not understand it.
In an interview after the rally, Underwood said she supports what Biden had to say about the Republican view of health care coverage. She described Hultgren's mailings about pre-existing conditions as "spreading mistruths."
"The thousands who have pre-existing conditions, they know the truth," she said.
Biden's comments hit many of the points Pamela Dale showed up to hear an emphasis on.
"I need health care," said Dale, a Elgin resident. "I want the environment to be saved. I'd like to see the 1-percenters pay what they are supposed to be paying. And I worry about the racist and xenophobic rhetoric causing fighting. I worry for my grandkids. So I'd like to see more Democrats in Congress."
Rita Maley lives in a portion of St. Charles that isn't even in the 14th Congressional District, but she turned out in hopes of seeing enough Democrats elected to stifle what she described as "pathology" in Trump's public comments.
"All the awful things people say about Trump, I agree with," Maley said. "I don't know how he got elected. I'm helping to support Lauren because it's too hard to see the direction our country is going in."