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Lawmakers Face Constituents' Health Care Flak

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Several newspapers report on influential lawmakers in the health care debate.

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, "lashed out at protester who held a poster depicting President Obama with a Hitler-style mustache during a heated town hall meeting on federal health care reform," The Associated Press reports. "'On what planet do you spend most of your time?' Frank asked the woman, who had stepped up to the podium at a southeastern Massachusetts seniors' center to ask why Frank supports what she called a Nazi policy. 'Ma'am, trying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to argue with a dining room table. I have no interest in doing it,' Frank replied" (8/19).
In a separate article, The AP reports that "with the national debate on health care reform growing more belligerent, many believe congressional centrists could hold the key to salvaging a plan." But some swing voters are taking "a careful approach." At his first health care forum, Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., "offered only a lukewarm response to a proposal by another moderate Democrat, Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota, to create consumer-owned nonprofit cooperatives. Nelson answered carefully when asked if those toward the center would be able to wrest the health care debate from the fringes, although he has long prided himself on being able to bridge the partisan divide." Nelson's "position as a potential swing vote has drawn national attention to Nebraska, with competing groups launching television ad campaigns in recent weeks. That led Nelson to air his own ad assuring residents that he will only support a plan that keeps spending under control, helps small businesses and 'works for Nebraska'" (Gibbs, 8/19).
Rep. Bob Inglis, R-S.C., doesn't support Obama's health care approach, but his "efforts to suggest other ways the government could change the system have stirred up his upstate South Carolina district," The Wall Street Journal reports. "'I think there's no right to health care,' Mr. Inglis told constituents at a town meeting. 'You don't have an obligation to provide me housing, food or health care.... But here's the funny thing, I believe as somebody that believes in a Christian ethic, a Judeo-Christian ethic, that I have an obligation to provide care for the least of these.'" Inglis, who "favors requiring everyone to carry health insurance" and "supports making insurers guarantee coverage to anyone willing to pay for it, subsidizing premiums for people on low incomes and a series of policy changes intended to reduce premiums for everyone," is having trouble finding a "middle ground acceptable to those who support providing more people with coverage, and those who don't want any expansion of the government's role. The congressman faces four conservative challengers in a Republican primary next year" (Radnofsky, 8/20).
Politico: "Former Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said Wednesday that he loves watching the White House and Democrats in Congress struggle to control the health care debate. 'I love their arrogance. They just keep digging the hole deeper and deeper and deeper,' DeLay said... during an interview on conservative host Sean Hannity's radio show. 'I love what the American people are doing to the Democrats,' he said in reference to the recent raucous town halls" (Barr, 8/19).
Roll Call: "Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) directed criticism toward the White House again Wednesday over a recently dissolved Web-based program designed to target misinformation in the health care debate. Cornyn requested the White House address allegations that e-mails sent through its Web site that were flagged because they contained 'fishy' information on health care may have been shared with the Democratic National Committee and other third-party groups" (Brady, 8/19).

This information was reprinted from with kind permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives and sign up for email delivery at

© Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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