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Rep. Bill Owens was a key vote for Obamacare and calls efforts to dismantle the law "irresponsible." NCPR file photo
Rep. Bill Owens was a key vote for Obamacare and calls efforts to dismantle the law "irresponsible." NCPR file photo

Owens a key vote for Obamacare, still supports it

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Congressman Bill Owens, the Democrat from Plattsburgh, was elected in a special election in 2009, riding the wave of Democratic momentum sparked by Barack Obama's election a year earlier.

Owens was one of the key votes helping to push the Affordable Care Act through Congress.

And while he's pushed for major changes to the law, Owens says he still thinks "Obamacare" is a good starting place for needed reforms to America's healthcare system.

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Reported by

Brian Mann
Adirondack Bureau Chief

Speaking yesterday with reporters, Owens described the government shut down not as part of a rational debate over public policy, but as a kind of slow-motion car crash triggered by conservative Republicans.

"I know lots of good, solid rational Republicans," he said.  "Unfortunately right now [House Speaker John] Boehner is being negatively impacted by a small group of people who are able to control the agenda and have really ground the process to a halt, which I think is absolutely irresponsible."

Owens, who serves in a once-Republican-dominated district tends to shy away from direct partisan attacks.

But during a conference call he argued that Republicans are refusing to make common-sense changes to the Affordable Care Act – changes politicians on both sides of the aisle agree should happen.

"Do I think there are things that need to be changed? Absolutely," Owens said.  "This is not an exercise in making it better.  This is an exercise in knocking it out."

Owens points as an example to the "Medicare D" prescription drug program, passed by a Republican-controlled Congress in 2003 and signed by George W. Bush.

"The next year [Republicans] did about sixty modifications," Owens noted.  "Which makes just good sense.  When you implement something, you find out it didn't work exactly as you anticipated"

Owens says he has no idea how long this impasse will drag on, but he says the dynamics are in place for a protracted shut down, one that could merge with the fight this fall over raising America’s debt ceiling.

"The US Chamber of Commerce and many business groups are saying to Congres and in particular to Republicans in Congress, 'Do not allow a defaut on the Federal debt, that is not acceptable.'"

One final political note about Owens and the Affordable Care Act.  Since being elected in 2009, he’s faced two challenges from Republican opponents, both promising to help overturn Obamacare if elected. In both cases, Owens prevailed by narrow margins.

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