John Kelleher Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
Approval of Sen. Max Baucus' health care reform plan by the Senate Finance Committee has buoyed the spirits of supporters in the nation's capital. That's the opinion of State Sen. Jonathan Windy Boy, D-Box Elder, who was in Washington Wednesday. He met with 18 other lawmakers who are part of a White Houseappointed group of state legislators pushing for reform. He met with President Obama and his key advisers in the Roosevelt conference room adjacent to the Oval Office. "The president was excited that the Baucus plan was approved," he said. Obama advisers, including political adviser David Axelrod, urged the lawmakers to continue with their fight for reform. "Everybody is excited at the turn of event," Windy Boy said. "I'm glad Senator Baucus didn't give up the fight." In the morning, Windy Boy dined at a weekly Montana breakfast sponsored by Baucus and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont. "I told Senator Baucus not to give up," he said. Windy Boy said he favored many parts of the Baucus plan, though he Would have preferred a public option. Under the public option, consumers would be given the option of signing up for a government-run health insurance program. Approval of the Baucus plan means the legislation will move to the Senate floor, where it can be amended and merged with a Health Committee proposal that supports the public option. "I think in the end, there will be some sort of public option," Windy Boy said. "I'm not sure how radical it will be, but I think there will be one." He said his committee will be summoned back to Washington to press lawmakers during the critical conference session to iron out differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. He expects that to happen in about a month. "They are really working to get this finished by Christmas," he said. In his district, Windy Boy said there is strong support for reform, but some are still worried about the affordability issue. Under most versions of the bill, people would have to buy health insurance or face fines. Some people, Windy Boy said, might still have a hard time buying insurance. "Senator Baucus and Senator Tester are aware of this problem," he said. Still, he said his spirits were uplifted by the Washington trip and the optimism most people felt. "It was quite a day," he said.