Whitehouse reflects on his first term

State's newest senator discusses Iraq, health-care reform

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., spoke with members of the Newport Rotary Club on Tuesday about his experiences during his first year as senator, as well as his legislative agenda and efforts in Washington, D.C.

The senator, who was elected in November 2006, described his first year in the Senate as “just unbelievable.”
The main topics Whitehouse addressed during his remarks at the Atlantic Beach Club were the war in Iraq and health care.

“There’s got to be a solution to the war in Iraq,” he said. “We’ve got to find a way to get our troops home, and I have fought as hard as I possibly can on that.”
Whitehouse visited Iraq in April and shared some stories from his trip. “The same problems that we had when I was there in April are still there now eight months later,” he said.
The senator stressed his belief that President Bush must send Iraqis a signal that U.S. troops will not be there forever. Whitehouse said he consistently has voted to pressure Bush to change his course of action in Iraq.

Whitehouse said the rising cost of health care and the growing expenses of other goods and services often leave patients and their families struggling to survive in more ways than one. Whitehouse said health-care emergencies are a leading cause of bankruptcy in the U.S.

He also said the U.S. spends 16 percent of its gross national product on health care. “The system as we have it now cannot be sustained,” he said. “We can’t run a system that costs twice as much as the European Union.”

Whitehouse said he believes that the nation’s health-care system is “a solvable problem,” but one that will not be fixed overnight. He said information technology in the health-care system is a disaster that must be improved. Whitehouse also proposed that patients should pay only for what they actually want or need, because currently many are paying for more medicine instead of better medicine.

“I’ve worked really hard on health care,” Whitehouse said. “It is a frightening issue. In 10 years, our health-care system is going to be very different.”

In Whitehouse’s first year, he served as a member of the Senate committees on the Judiciary, Intelligence, Environment and Public Works, Budget and Aging.

He also introduced legislation to improve the health-care system and worked to address the threat of climate change. Whitehouse was a key player in Senate investigations into the Department of Justice and wiretapping by the Bush administration.

“I’ve been lucky in this first year in more ways than I can think of,” Whitehouse said in his closing remarks.

Rotary Club members gave Whitehouse a standing ovation.

“He was informed of the issues,” said Susan O’Donovan, a director of the Newport Rotary Club. “There was a lot of depth to what he had to say.”

“I’m just glad to know there’s a good man in Washington,” said Middletown resident John O’Donovan. “I’m glad he’s on the judiciary Committee. I think he’s done a good job so far.”

The O’Donovans both said they would like to see Whitehouse make strides on health-care reform during the rest of his term.

By:  Christine McCall
Source: Newport Daily News