Childers looks for improved health care bill

TUPELO – U.S. Rep. Travis Childers of Booneville predicted Tuesday the House will reject a Senate proposal for health care reform slated for a Christmas Eve vote.
“It’s ever-changing, by the hours,” said the Booneville Democrat. Childers also said he expects the bill to go to a conference committee, where selected members of each chamber will try to reach a compromise.
In Washington, Sen. Harry Reid, the Democrats’ leader, announced Tuesday an unusual Christmas Eve vote on their bill. Usually, members of Congress are back home meeting with constituents this time of year.
“I want to support health care reform,” Childers told the Daily Journal Editorial Board. “If something isn’t done (about health care costs), it’s going to consume the disposable income of every American.”
Childers voted against the House’s version, saying “too many things” in it cost his support. But he said he hopes that as a compromise bill progresses through channels, it will get better, though he’s still concerned about the cost.
The former Prentiss County chancery clerk and businessman also said he was “discouraged” that the Senate leadership cut sweetheart deals with a few senators to get their support.
He said he hasn’t supported expansion of Medicare to age 55 because of financial concerns. “In theory, it sounds good, but they never told us how they were going to pay for that,” Childers noted.
A member of the fiscally conservative “Blue Dog” Democrats, he peppered his remarks to the editorial board with concerns about financial issues and urged the Senate to send so-called “Pay-Go” limits passed by the House to President Obama, who’s promised to sign it.
“Pay-Go” would require the Congress to approve programs only if the funding exists to support them. It is currently a rule in the House and Senate, but House Democratic leaders and members of the Blue Dog Coalition want to give it the force of law.
Childers also voted against the Omnibus Spending Bill, which contained funds earmarked for north Mississippi, saying he couldn’t support a measure that would add $30 billion in new spending on top of earlier deficit-increasing legislation.
He defended his vote for the American Renewal & Recovery Act, the so-called stimulus package, which he said brought immediate jobs for projects such as overlay work on Highways 45 and 78, a new WIN Job Center at Itawamba Community College, Tupelo’s new bridge on Eason Boulevard and expansion of the Renasant Center for IDEAs. He noted that more than one-third of the $787 billion in the package’s cost went to middle-class tax cuts.
“Fifteen months ago, we were talking about a stock market crash and soup lines,” Childers recalled. “We have made the turn. I believe we’re on the upswing now.”
He said ARRA saved thousands of jobs in Mississippi and shored up the state’s troubled budget, too.
“Jobs are still my number one focus,” he added.
Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@djournal.com.

Childers also said he …
– Supports the Tupelo mayor-council decision to favor Mesaba Airlines’ bid for service at Tupelo Regional Airport. He said he expects Mesaba owner Delta Air Lines to establish a second daily flight to Memphis.
– Favors limited extension of the airport’s runway, to 7,200 feet, which avoids cutting across West Jackson Street Extended. He said he believes many planes using 8,000-foot runways can still use one slightly shorter for the time being.
– Believes Toyota is nearer to moving ahead with the Blue Springs automobile plant.
– Will fight to secure a Mississippian’s appointment by President Obama to the Tennessee Valley Authority’s board of directors.
– Wants a clear exit strategy for U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. While he said he never will leave troops without what they need, he said he expects Afghans to revert to their long history of internal conflict after the U.S. leaves.
Childers looks for improved health care bill
– The House’s bill contained too many problems for his vote, he said, as does the Senate’s.

Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal