Massachusetts's Brown speaks out on health care, bipartisanship

By Karl Vick
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 20, 2010; 2:23 PM

BOSTON -- Scott Brown said he expects to be seated quickly in the U.S. Senate, but he was conciliatory on the question of what he will do there, noting that he voted for universal health insurance coverage in Massachusetts and wanted his election to encourage a new bipartisanship in Washington.

"We're past campaign mode: I think it's important for everyone to get some form of health care," Brown told a news conference Wednesday morning. "So to offer a basic plan for everybody I think is important. It's just a question of whether we're going to raise taxes, we're going to cut a half at trillion from Medicare, we're going to affect veterans' care. I think we can do it better."

"We have 98 percent of our people insured here," he said at another point. "We know what we need to fix it."

Brown said he would travel to Washington on Thursday to make a courtesy call on placeholder Democrat Paul Kirk, who was appointed by Gov. Deval Patrick after the August death of Edward M. Kennedy. Because Brown's margin of victory was greater than the number of absentee votes that still await counting, Brown asked commonwealth secretary William Galvin to forward his name to the Senate immediately, rather than wait for the result to become official, so that he can be seated quickly.

"Since the election is not in doubt, I'm hopeful that the Senate will seat me on the basis of those unofficial returns," the candidate said.

Brown and aides signaled that probably would happen.

"I look forward to getting to work right away," Brown said.

The two-term state senator, who said he was operating on no sleep, spoke of being moved by the populist surge that swept him onto the international stage. "It's not only overwhelming, I can't tell you how proud I am to be here," he said.

But in governance mode, behind a lectern labeled "Scott Brown US Senate," the Republican already was wrestling with the tensions inherent in the issues awaiting him in Washington. Exhibit A was the health-reform bill that Brown said to his mind was not really the central issue in his campaign.

"I've obviously tried to do some self-reflection and analyzing this as to why I'm standing before you today," he said. "And really, the number one thing I've heard is that people are tired of the business as usual.

"And what does that mean? That means that behind-the-scenes deals, the Nebraska subsidizing of Medicaid forever -- things like that have just driven people crazy."

When laying out his thoughts on the health-care legislation, however, a central complaint was the cost to Massachusetts.

"And if I can just be the 41st senator and bring it back to the drawing board, there are some very good things in the national plan that's being proposed, but if you look at -- and really almost in a parochial manner -- we need to look out for Massachusetts first," he said. "I felt as a legislator and as a citizen, that we haven't done that very well -- that we've always kind of thought about maybe Washington first or the party first. But the thing I'm hearing all throughout the state is, 'What about us?' "

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