Bennet fires back



U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, has been caught in the crossfire of partisan and media criticism during the final buildup to a Senate vote on health care reform. But after being ripped for not doing more to rake in political benefits for himself and his state in the final bill, Bennet hit his limit.

The senator, who had been blasted earlier for saying he would risk his future in the Senate for the sake of supporting health care reform, gave a speech Monday on the Senate floor that fired back at his critics.

Some excerpts:

"I didn't come to Washington with a partisan axe to grind. As is probably obvious to everyone around here, for good or for ill, I'm not a career politician. I didn't come here to win political points so that someone else could lose. I'm not interested in that...

"I am not naïve about politics, but I expected more. I will vote for health care reform because it is a step in the right direction. But I will not go home and defend the actions of a Washington that is out-of-touch. A Washington that is more interested in scoring political points, more interested in the 278 health care lobbyists who used to work for Members of Congress, than in it is in what our constituents have to say. A Washington that is more concerned with the millions being spent by big insurance companies, than the thousands of dollars being lost by working families who are struggling to pay for coverage.
"Columnists opposed to reform have criticized me for saying that I am willing to lose my seat to enact meaningful health care reform. Now, I am being asked why I didn't negotiate a special deal with Leadership. In fact, there was a report this morning criticizing me because the National Republican Senatorial Committee was rejoicing that I did not ask for special favors. Only in Washington would someone be attacked for not negotiating a backroom deal...

"So I have a message for the columnists, the political professionals, and those back home. I am not happy about the backroom deals. I am not happy that the public option was held hostage by people in our own party. I do not support rewarding delay with special deals. I will let others justify their vote and their tactics....

"As for me, I am voting to provide coverage to 840,000 uninsured Coloradans. Voting to extend Medicare for our seniors and provide free preventive care for everyone. Voting to close the prescription drug loophole and provide tax cuts to small business. Voting to make health care more affordable and eliminate exclusions based on pre-existing conditions. Voting for health care reform that is fully paid for."

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