Local Politics

Saturday, Mar 27 2010 05:14 PM

Rove: Make Obama veto changes to healthcare bill

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Congressman Kevin McCarthy, right, hosted a re-election campaign luncheon with special guest Karl Rove, left, Saturday at the Seven Oaks Country Club in Bakersfield. Rove served as senior adviser to President George W. Bush from 2000 to 2007 and deputy chief of staff from 2004-2007.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Karl Rove's new book, "Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight." Rove was the guest at a re-election campaign luncheon for Congressman Kevin McCarthy Saturday at the Seven Oaks Country Club.

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BY CHRISTINE BEDELL, Californian government editor cbedell@bakersfield.com

If Republicans one day got the votes to repeal or replace parts of the new healthcare reform bill, experts say, they'd just run into President Obama's veto pen.

Try it anyway, Karl Rove said in Bakersfield Saturday.

"Send it to him, let him veto it," Rove said. "Let the American people decide" what they want through elections.

Rove, the famous top advisor to former President George W. Bush and now a Fox News contributor and author, was in town to headline a reelection fundraiser for Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, who is running unopposed.

In a chat with reporters before the $125-per person luncheon at the Seven Oaks Country Club, Rove was asked what GOP lawmakers should do next now that they've failed to block the overhaul of the nation's health insurance system.

Rove said the changes he'd advocate for include tax advantages for individuals to buy health insurance, making it easy for people to carry their insurance coverage from job to job, allowing small businesses to pool resources and obtain the same healthcare benefits as large companies and cracking down on "junk and frivolous" lawsuits.

He railed on the cost of -- and economic formulas used in drafting -- the current initiative, adding "we sent Bernie Madoff to jail" for less-serious "shenanigans."

But could the healthcare defeat actually be a "Waterloo" for Republicans, as former Bush speechwriter David Frum recently argued in a piece that preceded his exit from the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute?

Frum wrote that Republicans suffered a big defeat and that their "overheated talk" mobilized supporters but marked a failure to lead. He advocated for pursuing changes to the healthcare bill that in some areas sounded like Rove's list.

"I disagree" with the Waterloo talk, Rove said. He cited polls leading up to the bill's passage that showed a majority of Americans opposed it and said never before has such a huge piece of social legislation been approved on essentially a party-line vote.

"The American people are against this bill," Rove said.

Rove, who was also pitching his new book "Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight," praised McCarthy as a "new brand" of "idea-driven leaders" who could one day be the House's first speaker from Bakersfield.

Kristen Myers of Bakersfield, who just started an internship with the local GOP political firm Western Pacific Research, was visibly star-struck when she saw Rove.

"I watch Fox News and every time I've seen him, everything he says makes logical sense," she said. "He's not biased, he's fair."

Not buying what Rove had to say when told about it Saturday was Candi Easter, chair of the Kern County Democratic Party.

She called Rove's talk of sending Obama changes even if he'd veto them "silly" because Republicans now don't have the votes to pass them and won't control the House after the next election.

"The country really wants to move on," Easter said. "They're tired of the obstructionism, tired of the partisanship."

And they may gain seats in November, she said, "but I don't think the Republicans are going to take over the House. I think they're dreaming."

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