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Peterson challenges president on health care

Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., right, addresses health care reform questions at Trollwood Performing Arts School in Moorhead as he sits with Scott Hennen, who was broadcasting live Tuesday on AM 1100 "The Flag." Dave Wallis / The Forum

President Barack Obama needs to propose his own health care legislation and stop offering generalities to Congress, said a Minnesota congressman serving Moorhead and Clay County.

Rep. Collin Peterson, D-7th District, spoke broadly about health care during a town hall-style event and called on the president to give Congress specific direction in crafting a program that will succeed.

"He's talking about generalities and concepts, but he has not said, 'This is what I'm for,' " Peterson said. "In order to get something done, it's going to take the president to come forward and say, 'This is it, this is where we start.' "

Peterson is a member of a group of Democratic congressman, called "Blue Dogs," who are considered to be fiscally conservative. In July, that group slowed down action on health care reform in the House. Congress plans to continue debate once the session resumes after Labor Day.

Peterson reiterated his advice to Obama during a meeting with The Forum's editorial board later Tuesday, saying Obama needs to take the middle ground and fix underlying problems with health care - such as funding for Medicare - or else no piece of legislation that passes will likely work.

"If he does that, then I think we can get this done," Peterson said. "If he goes off with the left, then I don't think it'll happen. I think this will blow up in his face."

The White House on Tuesday had no comment about Peterson's remarks.

The event earlier Tuesday in Moorhead was sponsored by conservative radio host Scott Hennen and included a one-hour question-and-answer segment between Peterson and constituents.

Between 80 and 100 people attended, and the dialogue was calm, compared to town hall meetings held by other congressmen nationwide in August.

Chanyce Dahl of Felton, Minn., was one of several to display a poster at the event. Dahl's read, "Health coverage is a benefit, not a right," and her four daughters waved American flags as they heard Peterson speak.

"We're just concerned about the direction of our country and the government getting too big," Dahl said.

Peterson addressed the controversial public option for health care reform, calling it a distraction from the core problems that need fixing.

"We, by and large, know what needs to be done to fix those things," Peterson told the crowd. "It would be a tragedy if we let this thing fall apart and we go another two years and don't do anything about it."