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Echo Press photo U.S. Representative Collin Peterson talked to manufacturing leaders Tuesday during a "peer council" at Douglas Machine facilitated by Enterprise Minnesota.

Peterson talks health, energy

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Douglas Machine hosted a meeting Tuesday for 35 manufacturers in the 7th Congressional District to meet with U.S. Representative Collin Peterson to discuss health care issues and a cap and trade energy plan.

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The meeting, organized by Enterprise Minnesota, wasn't open to the public. It was a way for business leaders in the region to discuss key legislative issues. The 35 manufacturing companies at the meeting represented 3,000 employees throughout the district.

President Barack Obama's health care reform bill is expected to come before the House for a vote next month. Peterson is a member of the "Blue Dogs" - 52 moderate and conservative Democrats, which are a key voting bloc.

Peterson has reservations about the bill. One of his strongest concerns is that it doesn't fix problems with Medicare. He said that the system is paying less to smaller states like Minnesota than it does to hospitals in other parts of the country. He said that changing the system is difficult.

"We can't fix Medicare because the big states are getting over compensated and not giving that up," he said. "If we don't get that fixed, I'm not supporting it."

Peterson stated that families with children who have disabilities or diseases who need to be frequently treated should be insured, but there are many who are not.

Even though Minnesota provides more health care than most states, it still isn't where Peterson would like to see it. "We should force people to buy insurance, just to get them into the system," he said. "Then we can fix the problem from there."

Peterson claimed that 15 million people in the U.S. are without health insurance. (President Obama's administration puts the number at about 50 million.) Spending more money on health care reform isn't the answer, he said. "I know there is enough money in the healthcare system to take care of these problems," he said. "People need a better healthcare system."

He added that he doesn't agree with President Obama's stimulus package. He believes the bill should have been limited only to programs that created jobs, encouraged infrastructure projects and provided help for the unemployed and those on food stamps. He said the bill included too much spending and tax giveaways.

The cap and trade issue was another big topic at Tuesday's meeting.

Peterson stated that a court case out East is what's driving the measure, which would control carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and other sources. A judge found that greenhouse gasses are an endangerment to health. A bill moving through Congress would regulate greenhouse gas and its uses.

Peterson, who voted for the bill after allowances were made for farmers, is hoping that changes will be made in the Senate before it becomes law. "Farmers have more power in the Senate than in the House," said Peterson. "They're working to protect the farmers when it doesn't happen in the House."

Peterson also talked about the Employee Free Choice Act, or Card Check, which he supports. This act would allow working citizens to bargain for better benefits, wages and working conditions.

"People who believe in the public plan think that's what will fix the problem," said Peterson. "[But] we have to go after the underlying problem to fix the situation."

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