Senator Harkin: "There Will Be A Strong Public Option"
by Charles Lemos, Sun Sep 13, 2009 at 07:31:10 PM EDT
Iowa Senator Tom Harkin is picking up the torch left by the passing of Senator Ted Kennedy. Today at his 32nd Annual Steak Fry fundraiser in Indianola that featured Senator Al Franken of Minnesota as the keynote speaker, Senator Harkin certainly hit all the right notes when he declared a health care reform bill would pass both houses of Congress "by Christmas," and that it would include "a strong public option."
From the Iowa Independent:
At his 32nd annual Steak Fry fundraiser, U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) was cheered by an enthusiastic crowd when he declared that a health care reform bill would pass both houses of Congress "by Christmas," and that it would include a government-run, not-for-profit health insurance plan.
"Mark my word -- I'm the chairman -- it's going to have a strong public option," said Harkin, who last week replaced the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) as chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) committee.
"[It] now falls to me to pick up the torch" left by Kennedy, he noted.
Health care was a popular subject for all of the federal lawmakers assembled here Sunday.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Leonard Boswell, a member of the conservative Blue Dog caucus, received praise from his colleagues for standing up in a Democratic caucus meeting to declare his support for a public health insurance option. Other Blue Dogs have been reluctant to sign on to that component of President Barack Obama's proposal.
Boswell and fellow Democratic U.S. Reps. Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack also expressed optimism that a final bill would include measures to reform medicare reimbursement rates. Medicare currently pays doctors in rural states like Iowa less than what doctors in densely populated states receive for the same procedures.
The event's headliner, former comedian and newly-elected U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), noted that while health care remains excellent in the United States, the health care system is broken. He, too, expressed optimism that a public insurance option would be included in the final health care reform bill.
On par with the previous 31 Steak Fry events, the day was heavy on partisan zingers and red meat for the strongly Democratic audience.
"This is my kind of town hall," said Harkin at the beginning of his speech, as the crowd stood to cheer. Town hall forums across the country last month were tense and, at times, violent, as conservative activists targeted elected officials who supported health care reform.
Harkin also criticized Iowa's senior senator, Republican Chuck Grassley, who famously repeated the false claim that if Democratic reform measures pass, the government would euthanize the elderly. "Shame on anyone who repeats it," he said, avoiding direct mention of Grassley's name.
On the subject of Republican politicians, Franken said, "They run for office saying the government doesn't work. Then, they get elected, and they prove it."
During his keynote address, Senator Franken also spoke to the importance of this moment noting that "this year we have a chance to confront the single biggest threat to America's future and the greatest unmet moral obligation in our history all rolled into one. That's what health care is. This is our opportunity".
It's an opportunity we cannot squander.