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Hare talks health care at annual luncheon

MOLINE – Although U.S. Rep. Phil Hare, D-Rock Island, prefers a public option for health care, not having one is not a deal-breaker, the second-term congressman told a group of reporters at an annual media luncheon.

Hare wants a health care plan that encourages competition and portability, that ends the practice of denying coverage or claims because of pre-existing conditions, and invests in community health clinics, he said.

“I’m not going to walk away because it doesn’t have a public option,” Hare said.

Health care, re-election and the war in Afghanistan were some of the topics on the table  Monday.

The House has yet to vote on its version of a health care bill, and the Senate is still working on one. Still, Hare said he hopes President Barack Obama will be able to sign a bill by Thanksgiving.

“I don’t see [a public option] as putting the insurance companies out of business,” Hare said. “I see it as something that’s going to make it competitive, and that’s what we should have, that’s competition.”

If Democrats fail to pass a health care reform bill, Hare said they could lose control of the House, and lose seats in the Senate.

“If we don’t pass health care, we’ll be in the minority,” he said. “If people feel we let them down, we’ve got a problem.”

“I know people will be angry with me over this [health care] vote, and I expect that, but I made a promise ... to all those people counting on us to get something done,” Hare said. “If I lost the election on that vote, and I knew people would get covered, I’d be OK with that.”

“By the way I’m running again,” he added with a laugh. “Surprise.”

Hare lamented that the Illinois primary wasn’t moved back from February 2010, because it forces elected officials to constantly think about campaigning.

He said he’ll file his election paperwork on Oct. 26, 10 months after being sworn in to his second term.

Although there has not been a formal campaign announcement, Hare has raised $230,000, according to his latest Federal Elections Commission report. That made his bid for re-election an open secret.

“You spend so much time asking of for money,” Hare said. “I hate doing that. It’s the one thing I don’t like about this job, is fundraising.”

The Obama administration is shifting focus from the war in Iraq to the war in Afghanistan, which Hare said he hopes does not become an open-ended conflict. He would not go so far as to say he wants a time line or withdrawal, though.

“I don’t want this country in Afghanistan for 10 years. I think the administration owes to the American people a clear policy of why we are going and at what cost,” Hare said.

Obama’s administration needs to be clear of what it’s goal is in Afghanistan, whether it be defeating the Taliban and Al-Qaida and securing the border, or the United States going in and establishing an economy in the country.

“I want to know what is the mission, what’s the definition of success, what could we expect and what is the cost,” Hare said. “This is a very different war from Iraq, our country is war weary.”

“We have the best men and women and a lot of them are tired, from fourth and fifth deployments, I just want to make sure we keep them safe.”

Hare opponent raising 
significantly less cash

Republican Bobby Schilling, 45, of Colona, hopes to win his party’s nomination and unseat U.S. Rep. Phil Hare, D-Rock Island, in November 2010.

So far, Schilling has raised $23,500, compared to Hare’s $230,000.

This is Schilling’s first run for elected office. He has lived most of his life in the 17th District, but when the boundaries were redrawn in 2000, it put him 1.5 miles outside its borders, in the 14th District.

Schilling’s restaurant, Saint Guiseppe’s Heavenly Pizza, is in the 17th, though, and he also owns real estate in the district, which encompasses all or portions of Adams, Calhoun, Christian, Fayette, Fulton, Greene, Hancock, Henderson, Henry, Jersey, Knox, Macon, Macoupin, McDonough, Madison, Mercer, Montgomery, Pike, Rock Island, Sangamon, Shelby, Warren and Whiteside counties.

Schilling is a gun rights advocate. He has said that he thinks people are upset with the growth in federal spending, and that he wants fiscal responsibility. He plans to court conservative Democrats and independents, he said.

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