Skip to comments.Campaigning for Burns, Frist outlines agenda
Posted on 08/29/2006 10:03:57 AM PDT by NormsRevenge
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., seemed to enjoy usurping courtesies by stepping forward to introduce Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., at a press conference Monday.
"I'm the leader," Frist said to Burns as Burns was about to introduce the GOP's point man in the Senate.
Frist's leadership skills will be tested during September as he has an ambitious agenda for legislation before Congress goes home at the beginning of October to campaign for the midterm elections Nov. 7.
Frist said he hopes to get through conference committees and on to President Bush bills dealing with port security, the congressional response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision that military tribunals for Guantanamo detainees are unconstitutional, Sen. Arlen Specter's compromise bill on warrantless wiretaps and confirmation of the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, who was appointed during the August recess a year ago and whose term expires in January if not acted on by the Senate. "After the elections, there could well be a (lame duck) session on a temporary worker program," he said. That issue, part of the larger debate between the Senate and the House over illegal immigration, is important for the future, Frist said.
With 14 or 15 working days left, Frist said, his tasks are "challenging."
"The Democrats have said they will not let any victories for the president go through before the election," he said.
Frist was in Billings Monday to campaign on behalf of Burns, who is seeking a fourth six-year term in the Senate. Burns is challenged by state Senate President Jon Tester, D-Big Sandy, as well as Stan Jones, a Libertarian from Bozeman. Frist campaigned in Billings four years ago on behalf of Mike Taylor, the Republican challenger to Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont.
Burns and Frist attended a short press conference during which a group of local physicians announced their support for Burns' re-election effort.
Dr. Kathleen Ryan, a radiologist, and medical researcher Dr. Howard Knapp spoke of Burns's contributions to the Billings medical corridor.
Ryan said the technology infrastructure was enhanced by Burns' efforts and appropriations earmarks.
"We have better tools," she said. Ryan practices at the Yellowstone Imaging Center.
Knapp, director of The Billings Clinic Research Center, said new medications and therapies would come from the infrastructure investments.
Burns said he has provided $27 million in funding over the past seven or eight years.
Frist, a heart surgeon, said Burns was a strong supporter of the small-business health insurance bill that failed by one vote earlier this year.
Supporters say the bill would allow small businesses to shop for insurance coverage in groups, giving them more buying power.
But critics claim the bill would prevent states from enforcing mandates that require insurance companies to provide certain benefits, such as newborn care and mammograms.
Forty-one state attorneys general, including Mike McGrath of Montana, and multiple insurance commissioners, including Montana's John Morrison, oppose the bill. McGrath and Morrison are Democrats.
Burns is a co-sponsor of the bill, which was written by Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., and is also sponsored by Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb.
During a tour of the St. Vincent Healthcare pediatrics department on Monday, Burns denied the bill would prohibit states' authority to enforce benefits mandates.
"That's wrong," he said. Auditors and insurance commissioners "will have a role in the plans."
Burns spokesman James Pendleton said the bill would require insurance carriers that offer a "bare-bones plan," one that doesn't include mandated benefits, to also offer comprehensive plans, although carriers could charge higher premiums for the comprehensive plans.
"That (price) is not something to be governed by the federal government," Pendleton said.
Frist said an immigration bill dealing with work-site enforcement and stronger border security, which is the focus of a House-passed immigration bill, could be completed before the election recess.
He added that appropriations bills for the departments of Homeland Security and Defense include $2.8 billion for border security.
Frist said a temporary worker plan will be passed in the future.
"I think we can come to agreement with that," he said.
Bolton's recess appointment to head the U.S. mission to the United Nations is good only until the next Congress convenes in January and requires Senate confirmation for Bolton to continue as ambassador.
A little late to unveil "plans" when youve been in charge of the whole enchilada for years.
Sen. Conrad Burns, right, and Sen. Bill Frist, right, of Tennesee, help St. Vincent Healthcare Supervisor of Facilities Services Jeff Swanson hang a sign for the new pediatric emergency care facitilities at St. Vincent Healthcare Medical Center Monday.