Kennedy’s Legacy Expected to Be a Hot Topic at Town Halls Today

Posted August 26, 2009 at 10:09am

On the last day of Sen. Edward Kennedy’s (D-Mass.) life, his Congressional colleagues continued to battle over his signature health care reform legislation in their districts.

Kennedy died late Tuesday at the age of 77, following a yearlong battle with brain cancer. His Congressional colleagues are certain to pay tribute to him as they hold public events in their home states and districts Wednesday.

Health care continued to be Topic A during Members’ public events Tuesday.

In Northern Virginia, former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, a physician, joined Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) at Moran’s first public forum on health care, according to the Washington Post. Moran defended the public insurance option before a raucous crowd of about 2,500, including activists from outside the district. Anti-abortion activist Randall Terry interrupted the meeting and was eventually escorted out of the auditorium. Audience members wrote down their questions as they entered the meeting.

“Everyone is still free to purchase private insurance,— Moran told them. “The private insurance companies, we think, will want to be more competitive, and so insurance premiums will probably go down, hopefully to the point where they don’t rise anymore.—

Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, also emphasized the need to lower the cost of health care when he met with constituents in Sun City, Ariz., according to the Arizona Republic. From McCain’s perspective, cost savings can be achieved by “slashing medical malpractice liabilities for doctors, creating a $5,000 tax rebate for families to use on private insurance and offering rewards for people who take steps to stay healthy, such as quitting smoking,— the newspaper reported.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the ranking member on the Budget Committee and a prominent fiscal conservative, held four town halls in his district Tuesday. He reassured his constituents that he opposes the Democrats’ health care reform proposal, according to the Kenosha News.

“Within about three or four years, the public option becomes really the public sector monopoly,— Ryan said. He promoted his alternative, the Patients’ Choice Act, to improve the framework for the existing private insurance system.

Freshman Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) held his first town hall in Provo on Tuesday, and left no doubt where he stands on the public option, according to KTVX-TV in Salt Lake City.

“I absolutely will not support this bill,— he said, later conceding that Democrats may have the votes to pass the bill without his support. Chaffetz, who defeated then-Rep. Chris Cannon in the 2008 Republican primary, is considering challenging Sen. Bob Bennett (R), who already faces Republican opposition, in the 2010 primary. He addressed more than 800 people in the biggest city in his district.

A fellow freshman, Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) also opposes the current bill but supports a single-payer health care plan, according to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. He took more than three hours’ worth of questions from about 350 people at a park in Farmington. Massa barely defeated then-Rep. Randy Kuhl (R) in his second race against the incumbent in 2008 and is likely to face a tough re-election campaign in his conservative district in 2010.

Massa will hold another town hall in Fairport on Wednesday.

See a list of today’s Congressional town halls at Congress.org.