WASHINGTON, D.C. — What does Minnesota’s congressional delegation hope to hear this evening when President Barack Obama addresses a joint session of Congress in his effort to rally support for health care reform?
The president, who is facing increasing pressure to clearly state what he needs to see in a health care reform bill, is aiming his message both members of Congress and at the millions of Americans who will be watching.
Obama in his speech faces a tricky task. Most significantly, he must try to woo centrist Democrats in the Senate like Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., while, at the same time, appeasing liberal House Democrats who say they will withhold support if the bill does not include a government-run public option.
Here’s a look at what several members of the delegation hope to hear tonight. We’ll be updating this article throughout the day with the thoughts of other members of the delegation.
Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar: “The president should take a direct approach with the American people — doing nothing, putting our heads in the sand, cannot be the solution. Our premiums are doubling and Medicare is going in the red by 2017. He needs to clearly lay out how reform will result in more stable and affordable health care.”
Democratic Sen. Al Franken: “I talked to thousands of Minnesotans over recess and no matter what end of the political spectrum they were on, they all wanted real reform. So I’m looking forward to hearing the president’s plan to fix what’s broken, and provide quality health care for all Americans while getting costs under control.”
Tim Walz, 1st District Democrat: “Congressman Walz is looking forward to hearing President Obama lay out a clear vision for health care reform,” said Walz’s press secretary, Sara Severs. “He will be joined by Jeffrey Korsmo from the Mayo Clinic. The Mayo Clinic consistently delivers high-quality, low-cost care to patients, but is punished under our current Medicare reimbursement system. Congressman Walz believes that any reform must address this fundamental problem and is looking forward to continuing to advocate for this fix with Mr. Korsmo tonight and in the coming weeks.”
John Kline, 2nd District Republican: “When it comes to health care reform, Americans want solutions, not another speech,” Kline said in a statement. “House Democrats have crafted this legislation behind closed doors, creating a partisan blueprint that — at last count — clocked in at more than 1,000 pages. It’s complicated, it’s convoluted, and it’s quite simply not going to work. It’s time to press the ‘reset’ button.”
Erik Paulsen, 3rd District Republican: “I hope the president will acknowledge the serious concerns of the American people about the current proposal and work with both Republicans and Democrats to craft a bipartisan health care reform package instead of allowing Speaker Pelosi to push through a partisan plan that increases our budget deficit. We should focus on lowering health care costs with bipartisan reforms that both sides largely agree on — including fixing the costs so they do not add to the staggering deficit, allowing small businesses to pool together and allowing kids to stay on their parent’s policies until they are 26.”
Keith Ellison, 5th District Democrat: “I’d like the president to reaffirm his support of the public plan. I also hope that he will finally put to rest that there are no death panels.”
Michele Bachmann, 6th District Republican: ” … I think it’s imperative for the president to drop the feel-good rhetoric and signal to the American people a real willingness to work towards bipartisan reform. … the American people don’t want another spin on the same old speech; they want a new plan. There are lots of ideas out there that have broad bipartisan support and can make a real difference in bringing down costs and making health care more accessible for millions. Washington Democrats need to work with the Republican minority to give our health care system the responsible reform it desperately needs.”
Jim Oberstar, 8th District Democrat: “He is looking for a rational and thoughtful presentation of the health care reform plan that will unify members of Congress who are serious about health-care reform,” said Oberstar Communications Director John Schadl.