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Dave Roepke, Published October 27 2010

Health care reform bill debated

Even though the 10-term incumbent voted against it, a debate in the race for the congressional seat in Minnesota’s 7th District saw its starkest exchange over the health care reform bill.

The 30-minute debate between candidates running for the seat that represents Moorhead airs on Prairie Public tonight at 9:30. It was taped Tuesday.

Lee Byberg, a Republican from Willmar, said repealing or defunding the entire health care law is urgent, a step he claimed would roll back a move toward government-run health care.

“If we wait two years, four years from now, it will be impossible to bring back,” Byberg said.

Rep. Collin Peterson said while he voted against the bill’s final passage earlier this year, he isn’t in favor of a full repeal and called it a “waste of time.”

“The way to fix it is one thing at a time,” he said.

With three candidates – Peterson, Byberg and Glen Menze from the Independence Party – there were few direct attacks and time for just four questions, on the deficit, health care, Social Security and flood control.

Peterson made little mention of his opponents’ policy positions, while Byberg criticized him for ballooning national debt and for not agreeing to a series of public debates.

“I think we have enough time to do that,” Byberg said of his debate proposal.

Peterson and Byberg said all government spending had to be looked at to help rein in deficits, but Byberg emphasized tax cuts while Peterson said recent renegotiations with crop insurance companies show how to slim the federal budget.

Menze tagged both of the major-party candidates as supporters of carbon regulations, though Byberg said the claim he backs a tax on carbon is “humorous.”

“That would have killed jobs throughout this district,” Menze said.

Asked about Social Security, Peterson said it would be better to focus on Medicare first. He said the former will be solvent for another 35 years, while the latter has only a decade.

Byberg said Social Security should remain for all who are 55 or older, but a different program should be enacted for the younger generations. He called it a “broken system.”

“They still talk to us like we can fix it,” Byberg said.

Menze said he favors letting younger adults have more control of their Social Security contributions, as it’s a disincentive to work if they can’t count on the program paying out when they are older.

On flood control, Byberg said he’s glad a diversion is being studied, though due to the cost he’s “getting some hesitancy from the business community.”

Peterson touted his plan to secure $500 million in the next farm bill for Red River Valley water retention projects, saying it may reduce the size of the diversion needed.


On TV

What: Minnesota 7th District Congressional Debate

Who: Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Detroit Lakes; Lee Byberg, R-Willmar; Glen Menze, I-Starbuck

When: 9:30 tonight and 3:30 a.m. Friday

Channel: Prairie Public

Also: Gene Waldorf, an independent candidate in the 7th District, will be interviewed separately in a program running on Prairie Public at 10 tonight and at 4 a.m. Friday.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535