Coats says GOP must try repealing health overhaul, then ‘move on’ to serve people

By Philip Elliott, AP
Thursday, September 23, 2010

Coats: Try repeal, then ‘move on’

INDIANAPOLIS — Former Republican Sen. Dan Coats said GOP leaders should try to repeal President Barack Obama’s signature health care law. And if the GOP lacks the votes to override the president’s expected veto, then Republicans should instead turn to “things that we can achieve.”

Coats, seeking to return to the Senate and running against Democratic Rep. Brad Ellsworth, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he understands Republicans will be hard-pressed to muster enough votes to override an expected Obama veto. But the 18-year veteran of Congress says Republicans should take a shot and if they fall short, set the stage for the next president.

“We have to make the attempt to repeal it so that we have the opportunity to start over,” Coats said after touring an Indianapolis shipping business. “If that attempt fails, then we have to make an attempt to reform it, or reconstruct it and try to take out the egregious parts and put in some more effective solutions because we do have a health care cost issue.”

EDITOR’S NOTE — An insider’s view of this year’s elections based on reports from around the nation.

Republicans have told voters they would push to repeal the massive health plan that is deeply unpopular with the GOP. But without a landslide, Republicans lack the votes to overturn an Obama veto. Coats said he understands this and wouldn’t be comfortable spending the next two years of Obama’s term grandstanding on something impossible.

“Right away, we state, ‘This is what we want to do.’ Let’s get it up for a vote, let’s have people show us where they stand, let’s send it to the president. His choice is to either to veto that, and if we can’t override that veto, then let’s move on,” Coats said.

“There are problems that need to be addressed, so we move on. I don’t think we need to consume ourselves over two years against something that is impossible to achieve if we can’t achieve it. So let’s go forward and work on things that we can achieve.”

A wave of independent voters who are disenchanted with Obama are giving Republican Pat Toomey an apparent edge over Democrat Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania’s closely contested race for the Senate, according to a poll out Wednesday.

The Quinnipiac University poll shows Toomey with 50 percent to Sestak’s 43 percent among likely voters.

“When a candidate’s at 50 (percent) or over, that means the candidate just has to hold his or her own the rest of the way to have a majority,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of Quinnipiac University’s Polling Institute. “And so that’s symbolically important and it’s also strategically important.”

Independent voters are breaking heavily for Toomey, 54 percent to 36 percent. Many are also unhappy with Obama, with 53 percent to 38 percent saying they want Pennsylvania’s new senator to oppose his policies and 59 percent to 37 percent saying they disapprove of his job performance.

Seven percent are undecided.

The survey was the first by the Connecticut school since July, when it showed Toomey and Sestak each getting 43 percent of the support from a larger pool of registered voters.

The telephone poll of 684 Pennsylvanians deemed likely to vote was conducted during the five days that ended Sunday. The sampling error margin is plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.

New Hampshire Senate candidates Paul Hodes and Kelly Ayotte clearly differed Wednesday on one of the most divisive topics facing Congress: what to do about the tax cuts for the wealthy.

Hodes, a Democratic congressman, said in the live forum broadcast on public radio that the country can’t afford the $700 billion price tag to renew the tax cut for the wealthiest. The cuts are set to expire.

“That would double the deficit,” Hodes said. “We can’t afford to do that.”

Ayotte, a Republican and former attorney general, said just the opposite, that extending the tax cut would pump $300 million into New Hampshire’s economy to help small businesses create jobs.

“It’s the wrong philosophy to raise taxes during this difficult economic times as Congressman Hodes would like to do,” Ayotte said.

The expiration of Bush-era tax cuts in January has led to partisan bickering in Washington over which tax cuts should be extended. Republicans want to extend all the tax cuts, while President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress want to extend them for people making less than $200,000 and married couples making less than $250,000.

Quick hits:

— Looks like Unity is more than just a town in New Hampshire. Former Senate hopeful Ovide Lamontagne plans to co-host a Washington fundraiser for his one-time rival, former New Hampshire attorney general Ayotte. The two competed for the GOP nomination for Senate.

— Ohio Democratic Party chairman Chris Redfern got himself worked up during a meeting with supporters and let lose some salty language to describe opponents of health care overhaul. The party chief used profanity to describe tea party activists and others who oppose Obama’s landmark law. On the video, he quickly apologized but later sent a note to Ohio Democrats refusing to apologize for his frustration.

— Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a potential 2012 presidential contender, endorsed John Raese’s bid to be the next senator from West Virginia. Pawlenty’s Freedom First Political Action Committee contributed $2,500 to Raese’s campaign.

Associated Press writers Marc Levy in Harrisburg, Pa., and Norma Love in Concord, N.H., contributed to this report.

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