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'Reforma' not a GOP cure

Minnesota GOP Chairman Tony Sutton says a television commercial that begins airing Wednesday will urge Democratic U.S. Reps. Collin Peterson and Tim Walz to vote against House health care plans. Pioneer Photo/Don Davis

ST. PAUL -- With light music and a soothing voice in the background, a content couple leaps into the air and another happy couple sits in a meadow amid wildflowers.

To any television viewer, it appears to be a commercial for the latest wonder drug, available only by prescription. But upon closer examination, this "Reforma" being promoted is President Barack Obama's health care reform plan and the script is a biting criticism of it.

"Consult your congressman or senator now," the male announcer intones. "'Reforma.' Side effects include bureaucratic waste and delay. Not recommended for people who need actual medical care."

The commercial encourages two rural Democrats to vote against the Obama health care proposal.

The minute-long commercial will air for a week in the western congressional district served by U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, a Detroit Lakes Democrat, and the southern region represented by U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, a Democrat from Mankato.

Minnesota Republican Chairman Tony Sutton and his top deputy stopped in cities across the two districts Tuesday promoting the TV spot, which begins airing today in Fargo-Moorhead, Alexandria, Mankato and Rochester. Sutton promised that anyone watching news in those communities would see it in the next week, although he refused to say how much the party is spending other than "five figures" in each district.

In an interview, Peterson repeated on Tuesday that he plans to vote against plans the House is considering and has meetings scheduled for Friday and Monday to hear what the public has to say before he decides just what health plan he will support.

"I think we need to do something and I think most people agree with that," Peterson said. "So what I am trying to figure out is what would be good for us."

Walz has not taken a position on the Obama and other plans, but supports reform. He also is listening to constituents on the subject during Congress' August recess.

Peterson meets with the public on health issues at 2 p.m. Friday at the Willmar Health and Human Services Building and at 1 p.m. Monday at the Beltrami County Board room in Bemidji.

The congressman said he hopes former Republican U.S. Sen. Dave Durenberger will host his two public meetings. The ex-senator is considered a health care expert.

"He clearly knows a lot about this and I think we need to do this bipartisan," Peterson said.

Peterson added that the federal government could learn a lot from how Minnesota deals with health care issues and suggested that Congress set up guidelines and let the states work out details that fit them best. He said that would follow a plan that worked well for welfare reform.

On Tuesday, Peterson held a private health care meeting in Alexandria, talking to people involved with a cooperative-type health care organization.

Don Davis works for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Bemidji Pioneer.