Minnesota Republicans are trying to turn up the heat on two of the state's Democratic congressmen as part of a wider GOP effort to defeat the health care reform bill.
State GOP officials unveiled TV ads today they plan to air in the districts of U.S. Reps. Collin Peterson and Tim Walz.
The TV ads were originally produced by the Republican National Committee as a Web-only vehicle to criticize the Obama administration's health care plan. The parody of a pharmaceutical ad refers to a mythical product called "Reforma."
"Reforma, the Obama-Pelosi prescription for building a government takeover of health care. Anxiety and stress disappear. Reforma, recommended by more lobbyists than any other health care reform," says the ad.
The ads go on to urge viewers to contact their members of Congress and voice opposition to the federal legislation. One version targets Rep. Collin Peterson in Minnesota's 7th District. Another targets Rep. Tim Walz in the 1st District.
Tony Sutton, chairman of the Republican Party of Minnesota, says the party will spend tens of thousands on the ads in each district, but he wouldn't be specific.
"This is about the only way that the public is going to be able to interact with Congressman Walz and Congressman Peterson, since they're not holding town hall meetings directly to talk to the public," said Sutton.
Walz took issue with Sutton's criticism, as well as the claims in the ad. He says he's planning to hold a town hall meeting on health care next week, and the details are still being worked out.
Walz says the Republican claim that Democrats want a government takeover of health care is false. He says private insurance would actually increase under the current plan.
Walz says his goal for health care reform is to bring down the costs of what he sees as an unsustainable system.
"I want to hear what other fix there is. I'm not tied to this version," Walz said. "If there's something out there that the Republicans think is better. But we saw eight years of absolutely nothing, and we're hearing nothing now but criticism. Growing up on a farm, I know that any donkey can kick down a barn. It's a little more difficult to build it."
Republicans nationwide are targeting the 52 "Blue Dog" Democrats, who represent conservative-leaning districts.
Walz says he's not worried about holding public meetings, even though some angry opponents have been disrupting similar gatherings across the country.
Rep. Peterson says he doesn't like the current health care bill. But he, too, says he's not worried about holding public meetings to talk about health care. Peterson has a town hall meeting scheduled Friday in Willmar and another Monday in Bemidji.
"If they want to disrupt it, that's their business. I think they do it at their own peril. I think that some of the other people at the meeting probably wouldn't like that," said Peterson. "But that's not my business. It's a free country. They can come and express their views. And from what I've heard from some of these people, I think some of those views I probably agree with."
Peterson says his main concern is the bill doesn't prevent Minnesota from getting shortchanged on Medicare reimbursements.
He says significant changes are needed in the coming weeks or the measure won't get enough votes to pass.