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Quad-City Times: Q-C Lawmakers Offer Praise, Objections For New Health Plan

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By Ed Tibbetts

Reaction from the Quad-City congressional delegation Monday to President Barack Obama's new health-care plan shows the obstacles he's facing if there still is to be a deal this year.

U.S. Sens Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, gave the plan a thumbs up, but U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, panned it.

Meanwhile, the area's two congressmen praised the effort, but made it clear they still have to be convinced.

The president's $950 billion health-care plan came three days before he is scheduled to meet for much of the day Thursday with congressional Republicans and Democrats in an effort to move the stalled initiative forward.

"With a framework in hand and a bipartisan summit on the horizon, the White House has outlined a path forward for enacting comprehensive health care reform this year," Harkin said Monday.

He said the plan "builds on what works (and) fixes what does not."

However, Grassley said the plan, which drew from elements of House and Senate bills that were approved without a single Republican vote, isn't much of a way to head into a bipartisan summit.

He said the president's plan is simply a new version of "highly partisan" bills. And he noted Democrats are ready to use a legislative technique bypassing the need for 60 votes to gain passage.

"The bipartisan goal of the summit gets overwhelmed by these partisan actions," he said.

Obama's plan, which also deals with some objections among House Democrats by providing more subsidies for uninsured middle-class workers, got limited support from U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa.

But it wasn't without reservations.

The Waterloo Democrat, who noted it took a year for the president to "finally" put out a plan, said it helps lower costs and expand access. But he said there still is "more we can do." He didn't specify.

He added the plan seeks to cut Medicare waste, but said there are "many questions" unanswered in the plan about reforming the program's payment system, which reimburses Iowa hospitals and physicians at lower rates than other states.

U.S. Rep. Phil Hare, D-Ill., said that Obama's plan "moves the ball forward," but he noted the absence of a government-operated health insurance plan and the House's preferred way of financing much of the cost.

"I continue to believe the House-passed bill--which includes a public insurance option and is paid for in part by taxing the wealthy -- is the better approach," he said.

The House plan would levy a 5.4 percent surtax on individuals making more than $500,000 and couples making more than $1 million.

Neither the Senate nor Obama plans includes that proposal.

In addition to facing a Senate that no longer is filibuster-proof, Obama also must gain enough Democratic support in the House to pass a bill, which only got by with a five-vote margin last year.


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