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Health Care Legislation Dominates GOP Debate

Milano, Berney Square Off in Advance of Primary

Health care legislation was a primary subject of a Sept. 1 debate between the two Republican Party candidates vying for the 5th Congressional District seat.

With the Sept. 14 primary fast approaching, the Manhasset Republican Club hosted a debate between Great Neck attorney Liz Berney and Dr. James Milano, a physician at St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn. Both are running for the seat currently held by the incumbent Democrat, Gary Ackerman, who is facing a primary challenge of his own on Sept. 14 from East Meadow resident Patricia Maher.

The debate was attended by up to 70 people and was held in an auditorium in the basement of the Manhasset Library. Candidates were allowed to introduce themselves and then give their views on issues important to club members. During several exchanges, Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment that one should not speak ill of another Republican was sorely tested as the candidates sparred over the particulars of the recently approved health care legislation.

Above all, both candidates decried the state of the U.S. economy, both noting the federal deficit, which they said would reach up to $14 trillion by 2011 and the fact that up to 40 percent of Americans now no longer pay federal taxes, thus shifting an even larger burden, they claimed, on to Americans who do pay federal taxes. Both predicted a catastrophic future, with Dr. Milano claiming that the “destruction of the dollar” was at hand and with it, America’s economic pre-eminence in the world.

As noted, healthcare legislation dominated much of the debate. Dr. Milano said the legislation was a “burden and punishment” on senior citizens. He predicted an eventual rationing of healthcare services, declaring that hip and joint replacements might even be done away with. Dr. Milano called on tort reform that would increase competition, reduce costs, and improve healthcare quality. He also called for a tort reform that would place a cap on non-economic damages so that physicians won’t flee the high litigatious parts of the state. “All healthcare costs should be completely tax deductible,” he said, claiming that tort reform could save the economy $58 billion a year.

Ms. Berney called for the outright repeal of the “health care monstrosity.” She also claimed that the legislation would tax senior citizens, the drug industry, and the healthcare industry in forms of medical devices. Ms. Berney also cited her knowledge of the bill, especially on the subject of deductions. Ms. Berney, too, claimed that more deductions would make healthcare more affordable and she particularly singled out federal mandates on buying insurance as unconstitutional, something that should also be repealed.

Tax and Energy Issues

An economy in crisis was another main theme of the evening. Dr. Milano said he would stimulate the economy with a flat tax, while Ms. Berney supported the extension of the 2003 tax reductions, which are set to expire at the end of this year.

On energy matters, Ms. Berney said alternative forms of energy, such as sugar ethanol and supplying automobiles with flex fuels are needed. Dr. Milano noted that the United States has huge coal and natural gas reserves, supplies that could satisfy America’s energy needs for the next 50 years. Dr. Milano also supported the use of nuclear energy.

Away from economics, both candidates declared their opposition to the proposed mosque for lower Manhattan. Both also predicted that due to public opinion, the house of worship would not be constructed.

In addition, both candidates lent their support for the Arizona law, SB 1070 concerning illegal immigration.

“It is abominable that the feds are suing a state,” Ms. Berney said, noting the reaction of the Obama Administration to the law, while adding that the Arizona legislation was constitutional. Dr. Milano called on the federal government to “close the border” by constructing a fence along it.