Elected officials across Idaho are coming out against the federal health care reforms that passed the Senate early Thursday morning. None of Idaho's Congressional delegated voted for the plan that's passed the House last month and the Senate on a party-line vote on Christmas Eve.
The health care plan now heads to a joint panel of lawmakers to hash out the differences between the Senate and House bills. Democratic leaders say final passage should come before President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address. That could come as late as February.
One of the more active opponents of the plan is Senator Mike Crapo, who's lending his name to a website against the reform package. MikeCrapo.com has big bold letters reading "urgent petition to United States Senate," calling on Idahoans to sign up against health care reforms. (The web address hasn't been Crapo's official Senate or campaign website, though it includes a link to his campaign.) The state Republican party is also supporting Crapo's petition with a press release. The petition website was still up after the Senate vote Thursday.
Senator Jim Risch called the reform package a "raid on the states" on the Senate floor. His Senate website now has links to a YouTube video with those remarks.
The U.S. House voted on a similar reform package last month. At that time, Republican Congressman Mike Simpson called the plan "Pelosi's Health Care Takeover," criticizing Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
Democrat Walt Minnick also voted against the plan. In his official statement on his no vote, Minnick said the plan didn't meet his standards of cutting both health care costs and government spending. Minnick appeared on KBOI Tuesday afternoon to discuss his stance on reform efforts. You can download an mp3 of Minnick's appearance here (right click, save as).
The opposition isn't just coming from Idaho's Congressional delegation. A Blue Cross poll released by the Idaho Statesmen earlier this month showed most Idahoans also oppose Congressional health care reform measures. Many respondents in that poll said they were against current proposals but in favor of reforms.
Gov. Butch Otter issued a press release Tuesday saying the reforms are "the latest example of the feds ramming through a ‘solution’ that satisfies the (Obama) Administration’s base." Otter has said he would support a lawsuit to challenge the constitutionality of the reform plan.
Republican Idaho state legislators asked by the Idaho Press-Tribune also are against the current Senate plan. The lead quote in that article is from Rep. Pat Takasugi, R-Wilder:
(To) Increase cost of insurance that everyone carries, (it's) an extra burden on businesses. It's a heck of a Christmas gift.
The opposition isn't unanimous. IdahoReporter.com previously covered Idaho House leader John Rusche of Lewiston's editorial in favor of the plan.
Idaho Democratic Party leader Keith Roark said in a statement Thursday that the Senate passing the plan is a victory for Idahoans. He admitted the bill isn't perfect, but said it would help thousands get affordable insurance.
AARP Idaho has also voiced support for efforts in Washington, D.C. State director Jim Wordelman said in a news release issued Monday that the plan includes important reforms that would lower drug costs and eliminate age discrimination. "We're disappointed Senators Crapo and Risch voted to block action on this important bill," Wordelman said.
The health care reform plan could still fail if House and Senate Democrats can’t agree on a compromise plan.
Much of the criticism from Republican opponents has been over political deals that helped secure votes from Democratic Senators in Nebraska and a few other states. President Obama and Democratic leaders have called the plan an historic piece of social legislation.
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