Vice President praises Hill for votes on jobs, health care

June 28, 2010

While protesters shouted “Boot Hill” and rallied against the Democratic administration, Vice President Joe Biden praised 9th District Rep. Baron Hill on Monday as a courageous leader whose controversial votes to stimulate the economy and overhaul health care will pay long-term dividends.

“He is an independent voice in Washington, someone who will serve the best interests of his people at home,” Biden said at a fundraiser for Hill in Jeffersonville where some 200 supporters paid $250 each to have pecan-crusted grilled chicken breast and fruit tart with crème brulee and hear the vice president’s 30-minute talk.

Biden characterized Hill, who is seeking a sixth term, as a “deficit hawk.”

Outside, however, some 100 critics of the administration, many of them tea party supporters who are backing Hill’s Republican opponent, Todd Young of Bloomington, carried signs that said “Taxed enough already” and “Give us liberty, not debt.”

Young, who spoke at the rally, said in a telephone interview later that Hill’s health care and stimulus votes were mistakes.

Including interest payments, Young said, the stimulus legislation ultimately will cost $1 trillion and may save or create 4 million jobs–or $250,000 per job — a cost he said the nation can’t afford.

Young also said the health care law is “deeply flawed” and will increase the cost of private health insurance.

The fundraising luncheon at Kye’s special events center drew much of Southern Indiana’s Democratic leadership, including Jeffersonville Mayor Tom Galligan and New Albany Mayor Doug England.

It included a VIP reception where Hill supporters could pay $2,400 to have a photo taken with Biden, who made a stop at GE Appliances and Lighting in Louisville before coming to the Hill event.

Hill’s race against Young is expected to be an expensive campaign and one likely to be targeted nationally by Republicans, who have portrayed Hill as a lock-step supporter of President Barack Obama.

When the Obama administration took office, Biden said, the United States was facing an “economic Armageddon” with the economy shrinking and shedding hundreds of thousands of jobs a month.

“We were handed a bill from the previous administration with a $1.3 trillion deficit,” Biden said, and the country’s foreign policy “was in disarray.”

“We asked for the job,” he said. “We knew it was going to be tough.”

But he said the administration learned quickly it would have to deal with the problems “without any Republican support.”

Fortunately, he said, strong Democratic leaders like Hill stepped forward to cast politically difficult votes, knowing their opponents would criticize them for supporting sweeping and potentially costly programs.

The vice president described Hill as “one of the deficit hawks” who has promoted fiscally responsible initiatives such as pay-as-you-go requirements in the federal budget process and creating a bi-partisan debt commission to develop ideas for reducing the nation’s long-term debt.

Biden said the administration’s efforts to turn the economy around are paying off, with recent economic growth and new jobs.

“We know things are going in the right direction, and the Republican Party did not a single solitary thing” to help, he said. “I really think the American people will see through them” in the November elections.

Hill told his supporters that he hopes voters will see what Democrats are doing. “And we’re doing it without any help from the Republicans,” he said.

Mary Slonaker, who drove from Cambridge City, Ind., to hear Biden speak, said she was impressed that he didn’t use notes but just spoke to the people.

Gerald Messer of Rising Sun, Ind., said Biden sent a clear message: “We need to get out and get talking to people who don’t understand. It’s going to take time, but they’re not just sitting back and doing nothing.”

At the rally outside, protesters cheered as passing motorists honked.

Many of the speakers talked about term limits and government debt. At several points, the crowd burst into songs such as “God Bless America.”

Kelly Khuri, a Clark County Tea Party organizer, said neither Hill nor Biden represent the people of Indiana.

“They’re usurping all our rights,” Khuri said. “They don’t represent their constituents. They’ve got to go.”

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