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Kirk hosting health care meeting today
By Russell Lissau | Daily Herald Staff

Mark Kirk


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Published: 8/23/2009 12:03 PM | Updated: 8/24/2009 9:15 AM

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As the battle over President Obama's health care reform plan continues to roil, U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk today will hold the Northwest suburbs' first town hall discussion of the controversial proposal.

Kirk, a Highland Park Republican who is running for Senate in 2010, has been an outspoken critic of the plan and has championed a GOP alternative. Both concepts will be on the agenda when he meets with residents at 3 p.m. at Arlington Heights' village hall, 33 S. Arlington Heights Road.

The meeting is expected to last about two hours and will be open to the public. Kirk expects a large audience because few of the Chicago area's Congressional representatives - and neither of its senators - are holding such meetings.

"We could have a raucous crowd," Kirk said. "And in regards to that, all I'll say is, ain't democracy grand?"

Unlike some other representative-led health care discussions, the media will be allowed to record the proceedings.

Video cameras were forbidden when Kirk and U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert of Hinsdale talked about health care Aug. 12 at a Naperville Chamber of Commerce meeting. Attendance was restricted to preregistrants, too.

Similar bans have been enacted at other health care meetings across the country, but Kirk insisted on an open discussion today.

"Have at it," Kirk said. "I work for the people I represent, and part of my job is to listen to their voices."

Kirk has held several live and telephone-based town hall meetings in recent months, but this is the first for him in his district since the health care issue - and these occasionally heated gatherings - rose to national prominence this summer.

Monday's session isn't just an opportunity for Kirk to listen to people's concerns about health care. It's also a chance for him to win back some of the Republican support he lost in June when he backed the Democrats' energy and climate-change bill, a House vote that was much criticized by conservative pundits and many GOP voters.

"My job as a Senate candidate is to earn back the support of the Republican party," Kirk said.

And without a camera ban, the event could give Kirk some valuable media attention outside the suburban 10th District that's voted him into office five times since 2000, attention he'll need for his statewide Senate campaign.

Kirk already is facing Republican primary opposition and will have a Democratic foe in the general election for the seat now held by Sen. Roland Burris.

The next town hall forum scheduled for the suburbs is set for Aug. 31 in Skokie. It will feature U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, an Evanston Democrat whose district includes some Northwest suburban areas.