The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

August 11, 2009

Bucknell: Sen. Specter talk draws 1,000

Senator tells Valley crowd he hasn’t read House bill

LEWISBURG — More than 1,000 people endured 86-degree temperatures for up to 90 minutes Tuesday in hopes of giving Sen. Arlen Specter some heat of their own.

Only 30 would officially be allowed to address the Pennsylvania Democrat at Bucknell University’s Trout Auditorium, but many didn’t let that stop them from voicing their opinion on President Barack Obama’s call for national health care reform.

Specter’s 90-minute town hall meeting was peppered with shouts, catcalls, applause and boos — much like he endured earlier in the day in Lebanon, after which the 79-year-old said: “There is more anger in America today than at any time I can remember.”

Specter and his Democratic colleagues are using their August recess to fan out across the country and promote a proposal by Obama that would provide medical coverage to the 50 million uninsured people in the nation, reduce medical costs and add a public option for those under-insured.

His appearance in Lewisburg — where well more than half of the auditorium audience opposed Obama’s idea — generated national and international news coverage.

Contrary to what was feared by some, there was no overwhelming presence of bused-in hecklers from organized groups. Most of the attendees were local. About 250 people waited in line in the hot sun in vain — there was no room for them in the 345-seat auditorium or the two 250-seat overflow rooms, where a video link was provided.

Here’s what Specter, who in April switched from the Republican to the Democratic Party, repeatedly told the audience:

n The House of Representatives’ version of the health care reform legislation is not the final bill. The Senate hasn’t written its version yet.

n He will not vote for a health care reform package if it will increase the country’s budget deficit.

n A single-payer system and a public-option are matters that are still on the table.

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