Vt. delegation awaits Obama speech tonight

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(Host) Members of Vermont’s congressional delegation are looking forward to President Obama’s speech tonight about health care.

And they’ve also got some advice for him.

Congressman Peter Welch says he believes the president needs to simplify the debate for the public, so they understand what the administration and Congress are trying to accomplish.

(Welch) "I think the president has to speak to the importance of this health care reform for you and me individually and for our economy in the United States. It’s the issue of our generation."

(Host) The entire delegation supports what’s known as the "public option." That would be a government-supported insurance plan that would compete against private insurers.

Senator Patrick Leahy says a public option would offer consumers more choices.

(Leahy) "People may well decide if there’s a public option, they’ll compare that and they’ll compare their own insurance plan. If they like their own insurance plan better, they’ll stick with their own insurance plan."

(Host) Senator Bernie Sanders also has said he believes the option will increase competition and drive down costs.

The administration has begun to back away from the public option in the face of criticism from Republicans and others.

A key Senate committee has been trying to come up with a different approach. But Leahy says congressional leaders and the administration may have to abandon bipartisanship.

(Leahy) "Well, I’d like a bipartisan bill if we could, but most importantly I want a bill and if we have to do it on our own, then do it."

(Host) President Obama is expected to lay out in his speech the details of what he wants in a health care overhaul bill.

VPR will carry the president’s address to Congress live. That’s tonight at 8:00pm.

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