On Hill, alumni battle over health care

Former Colonials express range of opinions over bill

by Olivia Kenney
Hatchet Reporter

There are seven representatives, five senators and a U.S. Virgin Islands delegate to Congress who can claim GW as their alma mater, but the similarities between the former Colonials end there as the alumni battled last fall over the controversial, but historic health care package.

The bill passed on Dec. 24 in the Senate, and the House passed its version of the bill Nov. 7. The two chambers are currently in talks of reconciling the two bills - a debate that has been charged ever since Democratic leaders asked to do the compromising behind closed doors.

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., received his B.A. from the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences in 1977. After 20 years as a business leader and four years as governor of Virginia, he was elected to the Senate in 2008. Although Warner said on his Web site that the legislation was "far from perfect," he supported the bill.

"I believe it will start to curb soaring health care costs for consumers and businesses, reduce our federal budget deficits over time, and extend the life of the Medicare program," Warner said after the bill was passed on Dec. 24.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., supported the legislation and criticized insurance companies that "discriminate" against consumers based on "preexisting conditions or gender." With a GW law degree, Reid practiced in a private firm for several years and served two terms in the House. He was elected to the Senate in 1986.

"Health Insurance Reform is about people," said Reid on his Web site on the eve of the Senate's final vote.

Sens. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., and Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, also supported the reform bill. Conrad earned his master's degree from GW in 1975. Inouye graduated from the law school with his J.D. in 1952.

Sen. Michael Enzi, R-Wyo., did not support the bill. Earning his bachelor's in 1966, Enzi has held his Senate office since 1997, and said he was concerned with the role of the federal government and the bill's debated public option.

"Government-run health care is not the solution to the problems facing our nation's health care system today," Enzi said in a statement on his Web site. "If America were to have a health care system run by the government, you and your doctor would no longer decide what is best for you - a committee in Washington would decide what doctors you see, how much the doctors get paid and what prescription drugs would be most effective for you."

Alumni in the House present a different leaning, with only Del. Donna Christensen, D-V.I., and two of seven representatives supporting the health care reform bill.

Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., earned his bachelor's from CCAS in 1981. He supported the bill, which addressed two of his main concerns: rising health care costs and the "preexisting conditions" restriction that insurance companies often impose.

Law school graduate Robert Wexler, D-Fla., was elected in 1997 and resigned Jan. 3 of this year, but supported this bill.

Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., expressed his concern that the bill will increase expenses and debt.

Rep. Jason Altmire from Pennsylvania was the only Democratic alumnus to oppose the bill. He graduated from the School of Public Health and Health Services in 1998 and did not believe the bill could effectively "rein in rising health care costs."

Altmire says he supports health care reform, and will continue to work on a bill with Senate and House colleagues.

Representatives Sam Johnson, R-Tex., John James Duncan, Jr., R-Tenn., and Eric Cantor, R-Va., also opposed the bill. Johnson received his master's from the Elliott School, while Duncan received his J.D. from the GW Law School and Cantor received his B.A. from the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences.

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