Daily Herald
Suburban GOP still waiting for Obama's invite to health care
By Camille Le Tallec | Daily Herald Correspondent
Published: 9/11/2009 12:05 AM

WASHINGTON - President Obama may have renewed his commitment to bipartisan health care reform but Republicans from his home state are increasingly skeptical.

Suburban GOP members told the Daily Herald the president's speech this week before a joint session of Congress did little to lure Republicans.

"It was too partisan and did not build bridges between the two sides of Congress. He talked at us instead of talking with us," U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk, a Highland Park Republican, said in an interview.

Specifically, area Republicans want Obama to abandon the idea of a government-run health care option for the masses and start adding Republican-friendly items like limits on medical malpractice lawsuit awards. Instead, they heard Obama again stress the need for the so-called "public option" in his speech.

"I hoped he would set aside the public option and that he would talk about a significant lawsuit reform. I hoped that he would agree to start over with leaders of each party. It was a lost opportunity," said Kirk, who plans to seek the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate next year.

Other Republicans echoed the sentiments, saying if Obama wants their votes he's got to address their issues.

"An overwhelming majority of Americans are concerned with the public option and the cost of this new system. Americans are very clear. He did not address these two concerns clearly enough," U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam told the Daily Herald.

Roskam, who sparred with Obama over health care expansion and financing during their collective tenure in Springfield, said the president's speech came up short and "lacked any details about how to actually pay for it without costs rising and the debt exploding even further."

Hinsdale's Judy Biggert said Obama should know better than to claim his coverage plan wouldn't add to the nation's deficit. "He's knows it is not true," she said.

On Thursday, the White House began calling in Democratic senators trying to round up support for movement on health care. Springfield Democrat Dick Durbin needs little convincing, saying he believes the president's speech will help move the debate forward. "He has set the stage for us to get to work," said Durbin.

But the other half of the bipartisan equation - Republicans - was left pondering the president's next move, unsure of exactly what plan Obama is pushing and awaiting details.

"We do not know what is going to happen next," said U.S. Rep. Donald Manzullo, a Rockford-area Republican.