Democrats Negotiating Public Option Compromise, Obama Optimistic Health Bill Will ‘Get Done’
President Obama visited Capitol Hill as Democrats as the entire Senate continued its heated debate on health legislation,according to news coverage today.
Roll Call: "Democratic Senators negotiating a hybrid public insurance option intended to bridge the divide between liberals and moderates adjourned Sunday evening after three hours of talks with participants reporting that progress was made but much work remains. The group of moderate and liberal Democrats, tasked by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) with developing an alternative to the public insurance option that is in the health care reform bill currently under consideration, is set to meet again on Monday" (Drucker, 12/6).
The Wall Street Journal reports that the group is considering empowering "the government's Office of Personnel Management to run a new national health plan, congressional aides said. The office already oversees the federal employee health plan, and administration officials pointed to it as an example of how the government can successfully run a health-insurance program. Under the proposal, the office would negotiate terms of the plan with private insurers, and contract with nonprofit entities set up by the private sector to run the program, aides said. One senior Democratic Senate aide suggested the idea is now the 'leading proposal' among Democrats" (Hitt and Adamy, 12/6).
The Hill: "President Barack Obama gave Senate Democrats a 'pep talk' on healthcare Sunday, telling them they stood to make history if they passed a bill expanding healthcare coverage to millions of Americans. Obama, during a rare Sunday Democratic caucus in the Senate, said that the healthcare reform bill, which seeks to provide coverage to more than 30 million uninsured Americans, is 'the most important social legislation since Social Security,' according to Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.). Obama didn't take questions from the senators or mention the two issues now dividing Senate Democrats and preventing passage of the bill: a government-run insurance plan and restrictions on federal funds for abortion." (Alarkon, 12/6).
Politico: "Despite repeated calls from lawmakers for more direction, Obama has picked his spots over the last 11 months. He has taken significant steps a visit to the Hill, a major speech, a private meeting at the White House only when he and his aides considered them necessary. Departing the closed-door 45- minute meeting, where he was accompanied by Vice President Joe Biden, Obama told reporters, 'They're doing great, they're going to get it done.'"
"Obama spoke for about 30 minutes, taking no questions, according to Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), who said Obama didn't made a specific pitch for any one provision, including the public option" (Budoff Brown, 12/6).
The Associated Press: "Deep divisions remain over abortion coverage, but there was hope for compromise on whether the government should directly offer health insurance in competition with private companies. ... Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who had invited Obama, sounded confident. Republicans 'want this to be, as one senator said, President Obama's Waterloo,' Reid told reporters. 'And it's not going to be.'"
"White House spokesman Bill Burton said Obama thanked lawmakers for their work and encouraged them to move ahead on 'this historic opportunity.' Democrats are keenly aware of former President Bill Clinton's failure to pass health care legislation in 1994, and their repudiation at the polls that November" (Alonso-Zaldivar, 12/6).
CongressDaily: "Obama's visit came as Senate Majority Leader Reid considers filing a cloture motion that would be the first of several procedural steps to get to a final vote. A spokesman said Reid hopes to file cloture "at some point this week" on the substitute the chamber is now considering or a manager's amendment that is expected to include the compromises that permit the bill's passage. Action this week is needed to complete action before Christmas, the spokesman said" (Friedman and Edney, 12/6).
The New York Times reports that, on Saturday, Obama met in the Oval Office with Snowe, "who voted for the health care bill in the Senate Finance Committee, but announced her opposition to it after the majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, announced that the government-run plan, the so-called public option, would be included. Mr. Obama and Ms. Snowe discussed the bill and she raised several concerns, according to one official briefed on the discussion. White House officials said the administration was focusing heavily on four senators, Ms. Snowe, and her Maine colleague, Senator Susan Collins, as well as Senator Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraksa, and Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut.Mr. Lieberman has threatened to oppose the measure if it includes a government-run health plan. Asked if he would oppose the bill if the public option stays in, Mr. Lieberman replied: 'Yeah'" (Pear and Herszenhorn, 12/6).
Senate Republicans "accused President Obama of backroom arm-twisting on Sunday, speaking at a press conference just steps away from the room where the president met with divided Democrats on an $848 billion health care plan," according to Fox News.
"The negotiations have 'drifted off into an entirely partisan effort,' Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said. 'They have crafted a deal with no appeal to any Republican.' .... Arizona Sen. John McCain said the president has completely abandoned his pledge for transparency" (Shively, 12/6).
CongressDaily in a separate story: "The Senate this afternoon rejected an amendment offered by Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., that would limit the tax deductibility of insurance executive compensation when the 56-42 vote fell four votes short of the 60 required for approval. It then defeated, 66-32, an attempt by Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., to limit the contingency fees that attorneys can collect in medical practice lawsuits. Senate Majority Leader Reid this afternoon said the Senate Monday will debate what he said will be a bipartisan amendment on abortion" (McPike, 12/6).
The Washington Post: "Meanwhile, on the divisive issue of abortion, Nelson planned to offer an amendment Monday to bar federal funds from being used for the procedure under the legislation. The amendment would mirror language adopted in the House on Nov. 7, which prohibited any public plan from covering abortion services and barred people who receive federal subsidies to buy insurance from using the cash to purchase a plan that offers abortion coverage" (Montgomery, 12/6).