Ohio Compare and Contrast

Buckeye State Freshmen Display Different Tactics on Reform

Posted September 3, 2009 at 3:39pm

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Two vulnerable House Democrats took on very different roles at their health care town hall meetings during the final weeks of August recess: One assumed the role of the skeptic; the other became the persuasive saleswoman.

As it was for Democrats across the country, the issue of health care presented problems in the swing districts represented by Reps. Mary Jo Kilroy and Steve Driehaus, as plenty of constituents throughout central Ohio joined millions of Americans across the country who want to stop or at least slow the Democrats’ march toward a universal health care bill.

But while Kilroy presented herself as an enthusiastic supporter of the leading Democratic

health care reform proposals, telling her constituents that they, too, would be wise to support the Democratic plan, Driehaus remained far more cautious.

At a late August town hall in Cincinnati, Driehaus told constituents that he hadn’t made up his mind one way or the other on H.R. 3200, or even on various provisions within the bill.

“I do believe a bill will move forward sometime in the fall,— Driehaus told a group of about 200 constituents. “I have not yet taken a position on anything in the bill. I have some very real concerns about H.R. 3200 as it was introduced in the House.—

He added: “My intent is to hear from you. And hear about your concerns.—

Not only had Driehaus already heard those concerns, he readily agreed with some of them, especially worries that the reform bill will hurt small businesses.

“The last thing in the world I want to do is slow the growth of small businesses and if that’s what we are going to do by adding the surcharge then I’m very concerned. That’s why I’m meeting with small business so they can help me understand how it affects their bottom line,— he said.

Driehaus stressed that the bill moving through the House was not necessarily the bill that Members would vote on later this year and that several aspects — including the controversial public insurance option — could change.

Where Driehaus played it safe, Kilroy went all in, attempting to educate her constituents on the bill and trumpeting its merits.

Speaking Wednesday to a group of about 30 people at a meal center for low-income seniors in Columbus, and with approximately 5,800 people listening to the meeting on a conference call, Kilroy sought to clarify misconceptions about the bill.

To defray concerns that the health care reform efforts will amount to a government takeover of the health care system that is doomed to fail, Kilroy employed a tactic that many of her peers have been using as well: reminding constituents that Medicare, the system many of them rely on for care, is run by the government.

“How many of you have Medicare?— she asked. “That program is about 65 years old now and when Medicare came into existence in Congress it took a lot of work to get there and Medicare was pretty controversial when it came in … a lot of people were worried what Medicare would do to the health care system. … I think Medicare has done great things for this country.—

Kilroy also told the seniors at her town hall and those listening in that the “death panels— were simply scare tactics from the right, and she played up the benefits of the controversial public insurance option, which has given many conservative Democrats fits.

“I think the public option is a very important aspect of the heath care bill because we need some competition,— she said in response to a question about whether the public option could pass in Congress. “I think there’s still going to be a battle to get the public option through Congress, I think there are a lot of people in the House that support it.—

Driehaus also pushed back against the false rumors that have so effectively fueled much of the negative public perception of health care reform, calling the suggestions that doctors would encourage older Americans to end their lives rather than pay for their long-term care “an injustice to the conversation.—

But illustrating the especially socially conservative makeup of his district, Driehaus also addressed several questions about public funds going to abortions.

“I know there are folks who are pro-life here, I know there are folks that are pro-choice here — I am pro-life,— Driehaus assured his constituents. “I have written a letter to the Speaker of the House, along with other pro-life Democrats, saying that I will not support a bill that has public funding for abortion.—