Did Obama visit to push Hagan?

July 30, 2009 9:38:27 AM PDT
Senator Kay Hagan's stance on health care may have played a big role in President Barack Obama's visit Wednesday. Some think the Senator is the reason the President came to Raleigh, but she wasn't in town Wednesday. That's because she was in Washington when Obama wooed an audience at Broughton High School. She told reporters on a conference call Thursday that she was "very concerned" that she had to miss the event, but was hard at work in DC.

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The first term senator may be a Democrat, but she's still considered a swing vote on the health care reform issue, so it's not surprising the President picked North Carolina as one of his stops Wednesday to campaign for his proposals.

"This is probably more about Kay Hagan and getting her vote for the health care reform bill," Republican political consultant Carter Wrenn told Eyewitness News.

"With Senator Hagan, she went up to Washington and found herself right smack in the middle of one of the biggest policy debates of the last decade," said Adam Searing with the NC Justice Center.

Hagan is only one of 100 senators, but since all 40 Republicans may vote against health care reform, Obama may need all the help he can get.

"The Democrats need 60 votes to stop a filibuster, so they need every Democrat," Wrenn said.

Hagan is also under pressure from several special interest groups to get behind the so-called public option - a government run health insurance plan that would compete with private insurance.

Representatives from AFSCME, the AFL-CIO of NC, Planned Parenthood Health Systems of NC, NC Fair Share, and NC ACORN delivered over a thousand letters and statements to her office on Thursday.

"Voters want their elected representatives to guarantee quality affordable health care. They want a quality public plan that will provide a real alternative to confusing private plans that profit from denying care and shortchanging coverage. They want everyone to pay their fair share," said MaryBe McMillan, Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO of North Carolina.

In a conference call with reporters on Thursday, Hagan outlined what she'd like to see in the way of a public option. She said it should be a "backstop" plan that would only be for people who currently don't have health insurance.

People who have employers that offer health care benefits would not be eligible. She also said any plan would have to be deficit neutral.

"I want to see how this is going to be paid for," she said.

Hagan said the Senate Finance Committee is currently working on a proposal for how any health care reform would be paid for, and she's eagerly waiting to see what's produced.

When asked if she'd stand with the President to override an attempt by Republicans to filibuster a health care reform bill, she said she hoped that there would be bipartisan support for any legislation and that it wouldn't come to that.


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