Suburban reaction divides along party lines

By Camille Le Tallec
Daily Herald Correspondent
Published10/30/2009 12:01 AM

WASHINGTON- While suburban Democrats asked for time to go through the health care bill introduced Thursday by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Republican lawmakers did not wait to condemn it.

The $894 billion bill, which would extend coverage to 36 million uninsured people in the United States, includes a version of a public option that would use rates negotiated with doctors and hospitals.


"The new blueprint [House leaders] outlined today is the wrong answer for America," Rep. Judy Biggert from Hinsdale said in a release.

"Democrat leaders are simply pushing ahead with a go-it-alone approach that raises costs, slashes Medicare, and will drive families into government-run care."

Highland Park Rep. Mark Kirk had similar criticism.

"(Pelosi's plan) cuts Medicare, increases taxes and adds to our deficit over its first real 10 years of operation: 2013-2023," he claimed in his release.

Republicans Thursday called on Democrat leaders, in Biggert's words, "to open up this process and allow the best ideas to move forward."

"It's unfortunate Democrats didn't work with Republicans on real reform," said Rep. Peter Roskam, a Wheaton Republican, who believes that the reform designed by Democrats "is not going to reduce healthcare costs or decrease double-digit unemployment."

Since the beginning of the debate, House Republicans have resisted any Democrat bill, prompting the leading party to keep them outside the process. Their suggestions include reforming medical lawsuits, reducing Medicare waste, fraud and abuse, allowing small businesses to pool together to acquire insurance, and permitting Americans to purchase plans across state lines.

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Rockford-area Republican Rep. Donald Manzullo, who said he recognizes that the country needs health care reform, hopes Republicans will have time to discuss the bill when the debate starts, supposedly next week.

"One of our concerns is that we could get only a few hours of debate," he said.

Suburban Democrats welcomed the introduction of the bill, although they say they need more time to see the details.

Rep. Melissa Bean's press secretary, Jonathan Lipman, explained in an e-mail that the congresswoman wants to read the bill thoroughly before commenting.

In an interview with the Daily Herald last month, the Barrington Democrat said, "The key element is choice. We cannot afford to undermine the private plans that the vast majority of Americans have."


A public plan with negotiated rates appears to be closer to her expectations than a plan with rates based on Medicare would have been.

"The details matter," Rep. Bill Foster, a Batavia Democrat, said in a statement. "Now that there is a single bill in the House, I am focused on reading and analyzing the legislation to fully understand how it will affect the people and businesses in my district."

But he said he was "encouraged that the House is moving forward with this. It appears to reflect my key concerns of making sure everyone is insurable, lowering costs and reducing the deficit".

Evanston Democrat Rep. Jan Schakowsky told the Daily Herald in a phone interview that she was "very happy," although she "would have preferred to see a public option based on Medicare rates."

"I didn't get everything I wanted, but I think it's a good bill," she said.

She added she was pleased with the tax on high incomes included in Pelosis's bill - a 5.4 percent surtax on individuals making more than $500,000 and couples earning more than $1 million.

"That's how we are going to pay for the bill, and I think it's a fair way to do it," Schakowsky said.

She said she was going to meet the President Thursday afternoon "to make sure he is going to support the public option."

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