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Idaho Congressman Hears from Constituents on Reform

A Blue Dog Democrat congressman speaks with his Idaho constituents about the ongoing health care reform debate. Betty Ann Bowser reports.

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  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Now, an Idaho congressman goes home for the recess and gets feedback from his constituents about health care reform. Health correspondent Betty Ann Bowser has the story. The Health Unit is a partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

    BETTY ANN BOWSER, NewsHour correspondent: There's nothing more exciting at the rodeo than bull and bronco riding. There's also nothing more dangerous. Listen to cowboy Jake Hayworth.

  • JAKE HAYWORTH:

    Broke both legs, blown out a knee, shattered a foot, broke both ankles. I don't know how many times I've broke ribs, fingers, dislocated both shoulders, and broke my neck twice.

  • BETTY ANN BOWSER:

    It should come as no surprise that rodeo stars have a hard time getting health insurance. So the cowboys who competed in the big Caldwell, Idaho, night rodeo over the weekend were interested in what lawmakers in Washington are trying to do about health care reform.

    Even though steer wrestler Austin Manning wants things to change, he's concerned about some of the things he's heard.

  • AUSTIN MANNING:

    I worry about everything they talk about, rationing of health care. I worry about adding so many people to the system.

  • BETTY ANN BOWSER:

    First District Democratic Congressman Walt Minnick also went to the rodeo to meet and greet.

  • REP. WALT MINNICK, D-Idaho:

    Hi, ladies. I'm Walt Minnick. I'm your congressman.

  • BETTY ANN BOWSER:

    He's been going to events almost every day during this congressional recess to see what voters have on their minds. He's also one of those 52 fiscal conservatives in the House who call themselves Blue Dog Democrats.

    Minnick is only the second Democrat elected to Congress in this western Idaho district since 1966. It's a huge area of the state that stretches all the way from Canada on the north to Nevada on the south.

    Voters here overwhelmingly vote Republican. In last year's presidential election, they went for Senator John McCain.

  • REP. WALT MINNICK:

    I'm Walt Minnick. How are you? Nice to meet you.

  • BETTY ANN BOWSER:

    But Minnick was able to pull off a narrow victory over his Republican opponent by promising to be a centrist and a fiscal conservative. So far, he's kept his promise.

    Dan Popkey is the political reporter for the Idaho Statesman.

  • DAN POPKEY, The Idaho Statesman:

    He only votes with his party 40 percent of the time, and that's the lowest in the Congress. He's voted against the president's budget. He's voted against the stimulus. He's voted against cap and trade. Those were fairly big votes, too, not as big as this.

  • BETTY ANN BOWSER:

    The "this" Popkey is talking about is health care reform.

  • REP. WALT MINNICK:

    Is there anything, in terms of your experience…

  • BETTY ANN BOWSER:

    And in spite of his conservative voting record, Minnick could still be vulnerable next year. Already he's been targeted for defeat by the National Republican Congressional Committee.

    Minnick's district is one of the most conservative in the country, fueled by voters who call themselves libertarians and independents, people who pride themselves on their distrust of big government. So a typical day for Minnick these days is chockfull of meetings with voters where he listens carefully.

  • IOWAN:

    Those insurance premiums are often two and three times higher than the average person makes.

  • BETTY ANN BOWSER:

    This day began with a breakfast meeting in suburban Boise with insurance agents and adjusters.