Wyden forum draws crowd

DALLAS -- Health care reform wasn't the only concern at Sen. Ron Wyden's Dallas town hall meeting Friday, Jan. 8. But it was the most frequently discussed topic.



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U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, addresses a packed house at the Dallas Civic Center during his annual Polk County town hall gathering on Jan. 8.

DALLAS -- Health care reform wasn't the only concern at Sen. Ron Wyden's Dallas town hall meeting Friday, Jan. 8. But it was the most frequently discussed topic.

Wyden arrived about 20 minutes late, due to traffic, to a packed house of more than 150 people at the Dallas Civic Center. Outside health care, questions included topics such as campaign finance reform, jobs, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Wyden said while the U.S. House and Senate will hammer out a final version of the massive health care reform bill soon, much more work is needed.

"This bill is a start," Wyden said.

One questioner asked how effective reform will be without a public option. Wyden said he shared the man's concern.

"Democrats are right that you can't fix the system unless you cover everybody," Wyden said.

He added Republican lawmakers have valid concerns about consumer choice and roles for private companies.

Wyden said he hopes to see a more bipartisan effort on future work on health care reform. It's too crucial an issue not to have valid ideas from both sides included in the debate, he said.

Moving from health care, one man asked about campaign finance reform, saying he felt money has too much influence on lawmakers. Wyden agreed.

"My view is that this problem is actually more serious than people realize at first glance," he said.

Wyden added that fundraising efforts and campaigning are a constant distraction to lawmaking. The amount of time candidates spend campaigning should be limited to just a few months before an election, he said.

Jobs were on the mind of an elementary school student in the audience, who asked how jobs could be created in Oregon.

The senator said lawmakers need to clear a path to allow American business more opportunity to manufacture products.

"That will get us back to good old American manufacturing," Wyden said.

Wyden has held town hall meetings in every Oregon county every year since taking office in 1996.



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