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  300 turn out for town hall
  Wyden takes questions on health care, immigration
  by Ty Beaver, Herald and News 1/7/10 
     Democratic U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden said repeatedly Wednesday night that the health care reform bill adopted by the Senate isn’t the one he wanted to accept.

   But he defended Congress’ attempt to reform health care before a crowd of about 300 people at a town hall meeting in the commons area of Klamath Community College.

   “We’re never going to fix this system unless we get everyone coverage,” he said.  

   Abortion concerns

   Among the questions on health care, one woman wanted assurance that her tax dollars would not go toward funding abortions. Wyden said the House and Senate versions of the bill prohibit federal funds from going to abortions.

   “In fact, it repeats that in several places in both bills,” he said.

   The senator also took questions about the legality of forcing people to buy health insurance. Wyden said there needs to be competition and a   free market for people to buy coverage, but people already are required to buy car insurance.

   Ev ryone having health insurance also would save communities money, the senator said. Otherwise, communities will continue to shoulder the costs of people receiving uncompensated care.

   “They’ll be shifting the most expensive bills, folks,” he said.

   Water issues

   Even with the focus on health care, Wyden took time to address a local issue, the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement. The document, still being worked on, seeks to resolve water disputes in   the Basin.

   The senator said he was encouraged by the number of groups working on the document, but he would have to read it before he could take a stance on it.

   “This is not the kind of thing you do in the dead of the night without allowing people to comment,” he said.


   A few attendees asked about immigration issues, saying more needs to be done to close the borders and remove illegal immigrants from the country.

   “It is obvious the immigration system in this country is broken,” Wyden said.  

   The senator agreed borders need to be strengthened and that the laws on the books need to be enforced.

   He also proposed a system that would allow illegal immigrants to apply for citizenship if they pay a fine, demonstrate a mastery of English and have no other criminal record. A number of attendees did not like that proposal, calling it an amnesty program that was promised never to occur after it was last proposed a few years ago.  

   The senator took criticism on some other issues as well, with one attendee requesting he read bills before he voted for them and another asking why Congress was spending trillions on health care reform when millions were out of work.

   “Shouldn’t we be more concerned about getting money in?” the attendee asked.

   Wyden said he read the health care bill before voting for it, as well as the one he drafted but wasn’t adopted by the U.S. Senate. Jobs are his priority and forestry legislation he’s proposed would help to open up the forests, putting people and mills back to work,   he said.

   “ We’ve been fighting about this for two decades,” he said of the timber industry and environmentalists. “We had to find some common ground.”  

  People fill the commons area of Klamath Community College Wednesday night for a town hall meeting with U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.
  H&N photos by Ty Beaver

   U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., answers a question during a town hall meeting at Klamath Community College Wednesday night. Close to 300 people attended the meeting.


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