Monday October 22, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, seeking to unseat Republican incumbent Scott Brown in a hard-fought campaign, declared on Monday that the survival of President Obama's health care reform law could be at stake.

Pointing out that the Affordable Care Act, often referred to as "Obamacare," builds on the Massachusetts' health care reform law by offering many additional benefits that already have kicked in, Warren told Eagle reporters and editors during a one-hour campaign visit that holding down soaring health care costs is among the law's most important assets.

In addition to squeezing out fraud in the system, Warren said, studies to achieve "better health care outcomes as lower cost" are top priorities in the law that Brown, in support of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's position, has vowed to overturn.

"Massachusetts is the leader in doing those studies," she said. "This is our best hope, we've got to bring heatlh care costs under control. It's good for us locally, good for the nation overall."

She acknowledged that there are changes that could improve the law, upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court last June as constitituonal on the grounds that it falls under the taxing authority of Congress.

"The survival of those health care reforms is truly at issue," she said.


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Warren's success at the polls on Nov. 6 is widely seen as crucial to maintaining Democratic control of the U.S. Senate.

"If the Republicans take control," she said, "it may be that it can be repealed with 51 votes -- in other words, it's filibuster-proof."

Warren predicted that if the health care law is attached to the annual budget by a Republican Congress, President Obama, if he's re-elected, could find himself forced to sign the repeal.

"I do not want us to be there," she said, "but it's a strong reminder of what could be at stake in this Senate race."

She acknowledged that "Obamacare" remains unpopular nationally "because it has not been properly defended publicly, and the other side has just told one untruth after another about it. There's been a very concerted attack on health care reforms from the right, and not as vigorous a defense as we should have had of this law."

On other subjects during a wide-ranging discussion, Warren said that investments in education, infrastructure and clean energy are vital to Berkshire County to keep it beautiful for residents and for the crucial tourism economy, as is the pending environmental cleanup of the Housatonic River from Pittsfield southward.

Those investments come from "a state that is on solid financial footing but it also comes from a federal government that wants to be a good partner to communities here in Massachusetts and all around the country."

She depicted the outcome of her Senate race and the presidential contest as based on "the big vision of how to build a future, more so than any race we've seen in a long time."

The Republican approach, in her view, is "pretty clear: Cut taxes for those at the top and let everybody pick up the pieces."

The middle class would pay higher taxes, she contended, or cuts would be needed in spending in education, research and infrastructure, or let the deficit grow even more. "It's math, as Bill Clinton said, just plain arithmetic," Warren said.

She described the Democratic vision as "everybody pays a fair share, and then we make those investments that build the future in education, public education and community colleges, which are critical to a trained workforce for the jobs of the future."

Warren cited the gradual extension of broadband Internet access to all of the county as an example of a federal and state partnership to expand opportunities for small businesses "to come in, create more jobs so there's more here for young people to stay, and to keep the tourism industry competitive."

Brown has been invited to a similar discussion with Eagle staffers but has not responded so far.

An expanded version of this article will be updated online and will appear in Tuesday's print edition of The Eagle.