January 23, 2007
split along party lines on health care, Iraq
BY Dori Meinert
Copley News Service
While Illinois lawmakers praised President
Bush's call for increased use of ethanol in his State of the
Union address Tuesday night, they split along party lines in
assessing his other domestic policy proposals such as health
Nothing the president said on Iraq changed their views on the
On Iraq, I was disappointed," said Assistant Majority Whip Dick
Durbin, D-Ill., who has opposed the war from the outset. "The
president is clearly determined to stick to his strategy despite
opposition from both parties in Congress and the American
people. That is the most discouraging part of the speech."
Durbin also said he is "troubled" by the
president's proposal on health care. "The idea of taxing people
who are currently receiving health insurance through their
employment is not a positive move. The problem in America is not
too much health insurance, it's too little," Durbin said.
Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., who is seeking the Democratic
presidential nomination, said he was glad that the president
offered serious proposals on energy and health care."I think
it's important to respond in a constructive way," Obama said.
However, he said, "the real test of leadership is not what the
president said to Congress tonight, but how he works with
Congress to find real solutions to the problems we face.
Most Americans believe that energy independence will come from
using more biofuels like ethanol and making cars that actually
use less oil, which is why I proposed a bipartisan plan that
would raise fuel economy standards for the first time in
decades," Obama said.
Rep. Phil Hare, D-Rock Island, said, "President Bush must work
with Congress to improve the lives of working families
struggling to make ends meet. Nowhere is that struggle more
apparent than in the growing number of Americans without health
insurance."Unfortunately, the president's new health care
proposal would raise taxes on those middle-class workers
fortunate enough to have good plans while doing little to reduce
the number of uninsured," Hare said, adding that he was
disappointed that the president didn't call for full funding for
veterans' health care.
Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Peoria, liked the
president's ethanol proposal, which he said would be a boost to
the six new ethanol plants coming on board in his district. He
also liked the proposal to give states more money to provide
health insurance to those who don't have it.
On Iraq, LaHood said, "What the president
said in a pretty common-sense way is, 'Let's give it a chance.
Let's give it a try for the next few months and see if it can
work.' I think he was asking Congress for some cooperation on
that."Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, had no immediate
Durbin, Obama and Hare have previously opposed the president's
call for a surge in troops to Iraq, while LaHood and Shimkus
support the president's plan.
Peoria native Nancy Brinker, founder of the
Susan G. Komen for the Cure, watched the address from the first
lady's box. The foundation that she established in memory of her
sister, who died of breast cancer in 1980, is celebrating its
25th anniversary. Brinker, currently of Palm Springs, Fla., was
appointed by Bush as ambassador to Hungry from 2001 to 2003. She
is a major Republican fundraiser.
In what has become an annual tradition,
Durbin's guests for the speech were two Illinois soldiers who
were wounded in Iraq. Marine Staff Sgt. Wade Cobar of Schaumburg
and Army Staff Sgt. Eric Sundell of Patoka in Marion County were
seated in the visitors' gallery. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and
his wife, Maggie, also attended as Durbin's guests. Their son,
Patrick Daley, is currently stationed with the Army's 82nd
Airborne at Fort Bragg, N.C., where he is awaiting deployment to
the Middle East.
Obama's guest was Rana Khan, who teaches
fourth grade in Chicago. She was recently named one of two
recipients of the Miliken Family Foundation's National Educator
Dori Meinert can be reached at