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Delegation reacts to Obama’s speech

Wed., Sept. 9, 2009, 9:08 p.m.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Barack Obama’s bid to reinvigorate the push for health care reform may have energized Democrats from Washington and Idaho, but Republicans still harbor the same reservation — opposition to a public option, which Obama signaled support for in the address.

Rep. Walt Minnick, D-Idaho, is still hesitant about some of the president’s outline for reform, but said “now is the time” to act on a health care overhaul.

“It certainly was time for the president to assert leadership on this issue,” he said.

Minnick said he still does not think a government-run insurance entity is necessary, but as a member of the Blue Dog Democrat coalition he said Obama’s pledge to not sign a bill that adds to the deficit was reassuring.

“I think that’s absolutely essential in our age of trillion-plus dollar deficits,” he said.

Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, said he wished the president had “taken the government option off the table,” but said the speech was “timely” and “called for.”

“The battle in our country over whether to shift to a government option in health care is an overarching one that we have to get past,” Crapo said.

Obama’s nod to Republicans – a suggestion to look at changing medical malpractice laws to make it harder to sue doctors – was too vague, Crapo said. Even so, it was “interesting he opened the door,” Crapo said.

Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, said the speech didn’t clarify enough, and said “probably, not much has changed.”

“I was looking for details,” Risch said. “It’s very hard to disagree with generalities.”

The president’s nod to a public option was unacceptable for Risch, because “private entities cannot compete with a government entity.”

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., on the other hand, said Obama did a good job clarifying how reform would control costs and the factors in the current system that drive up costs. The most effective part of the speech was the president’s suggestion that health care is a moral issue, not just a political issue, she said.

“I think that played to that question of us as a country and making sure people get access to needed medical care,” Cantwell said. “I think it was a needed rallying cry.”


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