Democrats Struggling To Find Delicate Balance On Senate Health Bill
Key Democrats appeared on Sunday talk shows to discuss controversial aspects of the Senate health care bill.
The Hill: "Two key senators criticized the most recent healthcare compromise Sunday, saying the policies replacing the public option are still unacceptable. Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) both said a Medicare 'buy-in' option for those aged 55-64 was a deal breaker. 'I'm concerned that it's the forerunner of single payer, the ultimate single-payer plan, maybe even more directly than the public option,' Nelson said on CBS's 'Face the Nation.'"
"Nelson's comments are somewhat surprising, considering he was one of the 10 Democrats tasked with putting together the compromise. He said this morning that he participated simply 'to be a friend of the process'" (Zimmermann, 12/13).
CQ Politics: "Lieberman stated that the agreement was in fact never a 'deal,' but instead something 'interesting enough to send to the Congressional Budget Office.' He called on Democratic leaders to remove the buy-in provision and add more cost-cutting measures" (Koffler, 12/13).
The Associated Press reports that Lieberman said "pleaded with Democrats to start subtracting expensive proposals from the overhaul, saying, 'We don't need to keep adding onto the back of this horse or we're going to break the horse's back and get nothing done.'
"Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said he was working with Lieberman and others on controlling Medicare costs, and he voiced confidence fellow Democrats can get past their divisions. Party leaders, resuming the debate Sunday, are pushing hard to finish the Senate overhaul legislation before Christmas and to begin negotiations with the House, which has passed its plan" (Woodward, 12/13).
Politico: "Lieberman said Democrats should drop the public option, Medicare buy-in provisions and the CLASS Act. ... The Connecticut independent also said the only way the Senate will pass health-care reform by Christmas is to bring 'open-minded' Republicans into the fold, such as Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe" (Sherman, 12/13).
Roll Call: "Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said Sunday that she will vote against the latest version of the Senate health care bill if a Congressional Budget Office analysis shows that it either does not reduce health costs or is not deficit neutral. McCaskill, who spoke on 'Fox News Sunday,' is a key ally of President Barack Obama."
"McCaskill's statement comes on the heels of a similarly Shermanesque stand by Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), who said he is sticking to his pledge to oppose the Senate bill if it continues to provide what he sees as an avenue toward public funding of abortion" (Koffler, 12/13).
Bloomberg: "Faced with the prospect of no Republican support for the measure, Senate Democrats may need all 58 of their party's votes, plus those of the chamber's two independents. The 10- year, $848 billion Senate bill is designed to cover 31 million uninsured Americans and curb medical expenses. Ten Democratic senators yesterday attacked a compromise plan that includes expanding Medicare, which covers the elderly and disabled" (Stohr, 12/13).
Meanwhile, CBS News reports that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called the bill a "monstrosity" and "said he doubted it would be passed before the holiday break, and said the reason was because Americans do not want it. ... He cited opposition to aspects of the bill that, he claimed, would cut a half-trillion dollars from Medicare, raise taxes to subsidize health coverage for the uninsured, and increase health insurance premiums for everyone else" He was on CBS' "Face The Nation" (12/13).
ABC News: White House chief economic adviser "Larry Summers told me that a health care bill would have to reduce budget deficits, but wouldn't necessarily have to reduce overall health care costs. ... Summers said that he's 'very confident that this bill will reduce health care costs,' but he wouldn't say that the bill had to have cost reductions for the President to sign it" (Stephanopoulos, 12/13).
Finally, The New York Times notes that "For several days now, Senate Democrats have exhibited all the nervous tension of an expectant father. They are edgy, a bit irritable even, striving to put on a brave face, and, for the moment, fundamentally not in control over the developments that are about to rock their world."
"[I]t's hard not to view Douglas W. Elmendorf, the director of the Congressional Budget Office, as obstetrician-in-chief about to deliver big news [sometime this week.] ... What Democrats are worried about is whether recent revisions to the legislation will substantially raise the cost, or even if the cost changes slightly, will result in increases in future federal deficits, violating a pledge by President Obama that the health bill not to add to the debt" (Herszenhorn, 12/13).