Dayton v. Kennedy

Returning Senator Mark Dayton to the Ranks of the Idle Rich in 2006

1/25/2005

'This has 2006 written all over it'...

...according to Master of the Obvious, Steve Schier of Carleton College:

ST. PAUL - Sen. Mark Dayton will become one of his party's standard-bearers on Medicare reform this year with legislation to allow the health care program to directly negotiate prices with drug companies.

Dayton claimed Monday that the savings gained from eliminating the restriction would "go a long ways" toward paying for beefed-up prescription drug coverage for seniors and the disabled. The bill would also fill gaps that leave some people paying for much of the first $5,000 of Medicare coverage.

"This is about people's lives," said Dayton, D-Minn., who's running for re-election next year. "This is about literally the survival of some of our most fragile citizens."

The provision in the 2003 Medicare law barring the program from negotiating drug prices for about 40 million elderly and disabled patients has been panned by Democrats, including Sen. John Kerry in his presidential campaign.

The Meeting Our Responsibility to Medicare Beneficiaries bill will be one of the Democrats' major health care bills of the legislative session. Dayton said Monday that the Senate Democratic Caucus picked him to carry the bill.

Sponsoring it will give Dayton a strong issue to run on next year. He's widely seen as a vulnerable incumbent.

"This has 2006 written all over it," said Steve Schier, a political science professor at Carleton College in Northfield. "They're trying to help Mark Dayton out."

Two Republican House members, Mark Kennedy and Gil Gutknecht, are already considered likely challengers in 2006. More names could surface as Election Day nears. "There will be no shortage of people lined up to run against Mark Dayton," Schier said.

Dayton, a wealthy department store heir, has been having trouble raising campaign funds. He spent $12 million of his own money in the 2000 election, but said he can't afford to self-fund again. He finished 2004 with just $177,000 in the bank.

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