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Roll Call

Kyl Urges Democrats to Slow Down Health Care Bill

Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) on Monday warned that President Barack Obama’s health care proposals could lead to medical rationing, and urged the White House and Senate Democrats to back away from plans to pass a bill before the August recess.

Even as Obama was delivering a health care speech to a convention of the American Medical Association in Chicago, Kyl told reporters on Capitol Hill that the momentum was shifting away from the president. Kyl and his fellow Republicans have argued that the Democrats’ plans to implement a government-run, public-plan option would undercut private insurers and lead to rationing.

Kyl contended that the American public is picking up on this and becoming increasingly wary. And, he said Congress should be able to go home over the August recess and discuss reform ideas with their constituents. House and Senate Democratic leaders are targeting the end of July to clear bills out of their respective chambers; Obama has demanded that Congress deliver a final bill to him no later than Oct. 15.

“At the end of the day, it is going to be the American people that decides what Congress does,” Kyl said. “The president says we have to ram this through, or else momentum for it will slow to the point where it might not pass. I think he’s right. But the American people have a right to know what’s in here. ...

“We need to be able to go back home, for example, over the August recess, meet with our constituents, and say: ‘Now, what do you think about this?’”

Kyl, during a news conference with reporters, unveiled a bill that he co-authored with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that would make it illegal for the federal government to use comparative research analysis to ration health care services and products. GOP Sens. Mike Crapo (Idaho) and Pat Roberts (Kan.) have signed on as co-sponsors.

Kyl noted that the AMA — which recently began grumbling over the direction health care reform appeared to be taking in the Senate — was supporting his bill. Obama has reiterated his commitment to allow patients to choose their doctors and hold onto their current insurance coverage.

Meanwhile, Kyl suggested that the White House and Senate Democrats have been intimidating outside groups from exercising their Constitutional right to “petition their government” and speak out against the Democrats’ plans for health care. Kyl hinted that the ability of the GOP to influence the health care debate depends in part on whether outside groups voice their concerns.

Top aides to Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) have asked Democratic lobbyists and their clients to hold their fire on criticizing the Senate Democrats’ health care reform package as it comes together.

“I think it’s important for the public debate for people who are expert in different areas and have strong opinions to be allowed to express them without intimidation or fear that the administration or the Democrats in Congress are going to deny them a seat at the table,” Kyl said. “I think it’s important for groups like the AMA specifically to step in.”

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