Dems Point To Rising Insurance Costs To Boost Health Bill; GOP Argues Against Reconciliation Process
News coverage focused on the ongoing battle between Republicans and Democrats on health reform legislation.
The Associated Press: "Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Sunday that health care reform would have been 'dead on arrival' if the White House had sent a finished proposal to Congress last year. The secretary also blamed delays in passing the measure on President Barack Obama having to spend 'far too much time talking about what's not in the bill' and trying to counter 'wild accusations' by Republicans. ... Sebelius said she thought [a March 18] deadline would hold but indicated the president would not walk away from the key agenda item of his presidency should the House not act by then." Sebelius spoke on ABC's "This Week" and on NBC's "Meet the Press" (3/7).
Reuters: "Obama's Capitol Hill allies have not yet lined up the votes needed for passage, a top lawmaker said. 'I believe it will pass. Do we have a mortal lock (on the votes), no, because people are still looking at some of the changes that are being made to the bill,' Representative Chris Van Hollen, a member of Democratic leadership, said on CNN's 'State of the Union.'"
"Two House Democrats who voted against the initial bill in November said they were uncertain whether they would vote with their party this time around. 'In the end I have to make a decision between passing this bill -- this is the finish line -- or doing nothing and I'm weighing the balance between the two,' said Representative Jason Altmire on 'Fox News Sunday.' Representative John Adler said both bills needed to do more to control costs" (Sullivan, 3/7).
The Washington Post: "The House and Senate will launch the final legislative phase this week, with the aim of holding votes before the end of the month. The action will come in two phases. First the House will vote on the bill the Senate approved on Christmas Eve. Then each chamber is expected to consider a package of 'fixes' offered under a budget rule known as reconciliation that will protect it from a GOP filibuster in the Senate. ... Republicans are vowing an epic showdown on the Senate floor to derail the reconciliation package. Sen. Judd Gregg (N.H.), the senior Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, which holds jurisdiction over reconciliation bills, has called the legislation "a giant asteroid headed at the Earth." He has pledged to block it."
"But since [Republican Massachusetts Sen. Scott] Brown's election cost them their filibuster-proof supermajority in the Senate, Democrats have been in a more pragmatic mode. Though significant internal policy divisions remain, a new flexibility appears to have eased some ideological battles within the party" (Murray, 3/7).
USA Today: Sebelius said "that 'we'll have the votes' in Congress, though she doesn't know exactly when that might happen. ... Republicans on the Sunday shows said Americans also object to the Obama health care bill, calling it too expensive and too bureaucratic. They further protested Democratic plans to pass a final health care bill under a budget process known as reconciliation. 'It would be catastrophic for the Senate,' said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., on CBS' Face The Nation. 'The minority's rights would have been overcome by rank partisanship at a time when the bill itself, the process that led to it, wasn't so good.'"
"President Obama hits the road this week to tout his health care plan, visiting Philadelphia on Monday and St. Louis on Wednesday" (Jackson, 3/7).
Politico: "Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) warns that Democrats are playing with fire by attempting to pass health care legislation using the Senate's reconciliation rules and without bipartisan support. ... 'We're talking about the first time in history sweeping social legislation will be passed, if [Democrats] get their way, by a totally partisan vote,' Hatch said. 'If we do that, Katie bar the door, I got to tell you.'" Hatch spoke on "Meet the Press" (Gerstein, 3/7).
The Hill: "Both the White House and congressional Democrats have set for themselves countless healthcare deadlines -- from dates by which lawmakers hoped to clear bills from their respective committees in 2009, to the president's new hope to complete the entire reform process by the end of the month. However, lawmakers have overshot or nearly missed many of those self-imposed deadlines, further stalling the reform process. Many thus fear that could happen again in March, primarily because Democrats still disagree over a number of their healthcare bill's more contentious provisions, including abortion" (Romm, 3/7).
Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reports on dueling weekly national addresses Saturday: "President Barack Obama used his weekly radio address to urge lawmakers to schedule a final vote on a Democratic health-care overhaul plan ... The president said Congress 'must act now' and 'owes the American people an up-or-down vote on health insurance reform.' Obama reiterated that the time for talking is over, noting that the health-care revamp has been debated for nearly a year..."
"In the Republican response, Rep. Parker Griffith (R., Ala.) opposed efforts to advance health-care legislation on a partisan basis and said the administration and Congress need to start over on the controversial overhaul. ... He said that would raise taxes, slash some benefits and 'put federal bureaucrats in charge of medical decisions that should be made by patients and doctors.'" Griffith is a physician and was elected as a Democrat before switching parties last year (Burns, 3/7).
The New York Times: "To bolster the case for a far-reaching overhaul of the health care system, the Obama administration is seizing on a new analysis by Goldman Sachs, the New York investment bank, recommending that investors buy shares in two big insurance companies, the UnitedHealth Group and Cigna, because insurance rates are up sharply and competition is down. ... officials will point to a finding that rate increases ran as high as 50 percent, with most in 'the low- to mid-teens' - far higher than overall inflation."
"Republicans, however, could also point to the analysis as bolstering their contention that Democrats should be focused more on controlling costs and less on broadly expanding coverage to the uninsured. The research brief is largely based on a recent conference call with Steve Lewis, an industry expert with Willis, a major insurance broker. In the call, Mr. Lewis ... explained that his clients - mostly midsize employers seeking to buy health coverage for their employees - were facing a tough market, in which insurance carriers are increasingly willing to abandon existing customers to improve their profit margins" (Herszenhorn, 3/6).