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McKeon Talks About Pending Health Care Bill

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The controversial health care bill passed by the Senate and up for a House vote by the end of the weekend isn't something that pleases our local representative.

Congressman Buck McKeon held a telephone press conference to explain some of the issues he and other members of the House are facing, including a procedural trick that could pass the health care law by riding on the back of a student loan bill.

"First of all, the bill didn't come Monday, but it came out late last night," McKeon said. "It's hard to keep a secret in a town like this, and it looks like it will cost more than they expected."

He said the Congressional Budget Office has taken the measure back to determine the numbers, but even if they come back with reasonable costs, he'll still have a problem voting to approve it.

McKeon sent an op-ed piece to KHTS prior to the conference, which can be read here.

He said that one of the points emphasized in the editorial was that the Democrats don't have the votes to pass the bill, but a more important issue was the relation of the health care bill to a student loan revision.

The Congressman served on the Education Committee for several years before moving over to the House Armed Services Committee, on which he is the Ranking Minority Leader.

"This bill will dramatically reshape the way students will pay for college," McKeon said. The bill involves a change made in 1993 that makes the Department of Education a primary source for student loans, eliminating a percentage of private enterprise banks from the process and complicating the loan process for college students.

"In this program they have passed in the House, they are going to tie all student loans into the 'reconciliation' and eliminate the private enterprise from the system," he said. "Any student getting a loan will have to go through the Department of Education. It will cost students more and they will get less service. It's one of the main reasons I am against the health care bill."

The non-traditional tactic proposed to get the health care bill passed is to tie the two issues - student loans and health care - together and pass the student loan bill which would "deem" the Senate health care bill without actually bringing it to a vote.

"It's a procedural manner that both sides have used in the past, but never for anything like this," McKeon said. "It's been used for routine type things, but this is one of the biggest votes I will have in my time, and one of the most consequential votes long-term. They're comparing it to when they passed Social Security in the '30s. This is a very, very far-reaching bill."

The Republicans have been promised that the bill will be presented at least 72 hours before the vote to give them a chance to review it - all 2,700 pages. McKeon anticipates that the vote will take place on Friday, Saturday at the latest.

Asked if there was any way he would find the health care bill acceptable, McKeon's answer was an emphatic "no."

"There are just too many things in the bill," he explained. "It's going to cost a trillion dollars, and we're already 12 trillion dollars in debt, I don't see how that can happen. There are tax increases that they're talking about. I've talked to Democrats, friends of mine over the years, that have had a chance to be in the room and see what's going on and they tell me the things that they see make them sick."

Despite the controversy, McKeon said addressing the health care problems facing this nation is long overdue.

"No question. There's been a lot of polling done on this. Eighty percent of Americans are happy with their health care, but they're really concerned with the costs and increase in their premiums. They're really concerned about covering 30 million people and making them pay more. They don't like the fact that it's mandated, that they have to buy insurance.

"The President has been beating up on insurance companies, but the insurance companies come out pretty good here. They (the health care bill) mandate that you have to buy insurance, and they don't do anything to hold increase in premiums down. Insurance companies are pretty happy about it."