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Kline rejects Walz meeting offer

ST. PAUL - Don't plan to attend a health-care reform meeting with U.S. Reps. Tim Walz and John Kline standing side by side.

Kline's office questions the real reason for the Walz invitation for a joint public meeting.

"That we received his invitation on the same day it was released to the press leads me to question if there was ever a good faith intent on Mr. Walz's behalf," Kline spokesman Troy Young said. "Frankly, it sounds like a publicity stunt."

But Walz Press Secretary Sara Severs said the southern Minnesota congressman truly wanted the joint meetings.

"Frankly, the congressman was sincere in his offer to do a town hall in our district and Congressman Kline's district and we wouldn't characterize meeting with constituents as a publicity stunt," said Severs, who added that her office had not heard from Kline.

In a Friday news release and letter to Kline, Democrat Walz invited his Republican colleague to hold two joint health meetings, one in each man's district.

"In the past few weeks, we have seen shouting matches and disruptions in public meetings on health care in other parts of the country," Walz said. "That's not how we do it in Minnesota. My proposal is to restore civility to the great American tradition of town hall meetings. We restore this civility by having some good old-fashioned bi-partisan listening to all the people and all of the perspectives."

But Young said it appeared more like Walz wanted to be joined by the top Republican on a House committee that will deal with health care.

"Congressman Kline is focusing on communicating with constituents in the 2nd district about why he opposes a government takeover of health care," Young said.

Kline has no health care-specific town hall meeting scheduled, but may hold a telephone conference meeting on the subject. Walz plans a health meeting in Mankato Thursday.

Also, Walz plans an hour-long tele-town hall meetings via a telephone conference call beginning at 5:30 p.m. today. Joining Walz on the call will be U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. Both will answer questions about health insurance reform.

Walz constituents may call (888) 356-3090 and enter passcode 13244 when prompted. The call will be limited to 1,000 people.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.