Peoria Journal Star

January 23, 2007

Illinois lawmakers 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 care.

Nothing the president said on Iraq changed their views on the war.
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 comment.

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 Award.

Dori Meinert
can be reached at 202-737-7686 or