June 19th, 2009
02:55 PM ET
9 years ago

Democrats fear Obama health plan 'on the rocks'

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Several senior Democratic advisers to the White House are urging President Obama to further step up his personal involvement in the health care debate, as administration allies privately warn that the president's push for a major reform bill is hitting major roadblocks at a critical juncture on Capitol Hill.

One of the Democratic advisers told CNN there is fear within the party that the president's signature issue is "on the rocks" because of dramatically high cost estimates for separate bills being drafted by Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) and Max Baucus (D-Montana). The Congressional Budget Office's estimate for the Kennedy bill - that it will cost $1 trillion and yet leave millions of Americans without health insurance - has given Republicans strong political ammunition to charge reform may be too expensive at a time of massive federal deficits.

CNN Radio: Ed Henry reports on the status of the president's plan

"We're going to need the White House to step it up a little bit and get more engaged," said a second Democratic adviser, who acknowledged concerns that Republicans are gaining steam in the message battle. "We've got some time to sort this out, but decision time is just around the corner."

This second Democratic adviser said the CBO's $1.6 trillion estimate for the Baucus bill was particularly jarring to Democrats because it was "several hundred billion dollars more" than expected. Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, announced this week he's pushing back the official unveiling of his legislation until after July 4 - a delay that imperils White House hopes the Senate can finish work on the issue before leaving town for its August recess.

But senior White House officials contend that while there are legitimate concerns about the status of the legislation, the President is still confident the setbacks are a normal part of the legislative process and it will eventually get back on track.

"We're not hysterical," said one senior White House official. "We've seen this movie before: [the congressional process] looks like a total mess, nothing is getting done, and then something happens."

Amid the Democratic concerns about the need for the President to take on a more active role, the President is planning next Wednesday to appear in a primetime special broadcast on ABC News. The program entitled, "Questions for the President: Prescription for America" will be moderated by Charles Gibson and Diane Sawyer and will feature questions from audience members in the East Room of the White House.

Jim Manley, a senior aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), told CNN that even though there are some ominous signs for Democrats right now, party officials are confident they're just bumps in the road.

"Be very careful to sort out the wheat from the chaff, the noise from the reality," said Manley. "It's not easy, but we can do it."

But in a sign Democrats may be nervous that they will not be able to reach 60 votes in the Senate for Obama's plan, Reid reminded reporters this week that in order to pass the health legislation he still reserves the right to use arcane budget rules known as "reconciliation" that require only a simple majority of 51 votes to pass legislation.

Filed under: Congress • Health care • President Obama
soundoff (199 Responses)
  1. Chris - Denver

    If they don't get it done, we should take away their "Public Option" health care plan! Then you'd see some real action in the Senate.

    June 19, 2009 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  2. Darth Vadik, CA


    I know what you mean, anything that works in France, England Germany and the rest of the industrialized world would not work for the US.

    Brilliant donttreadonme, you speak like a true moron.

    June 19, 2009 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  3. Travis

    The only thing this president is good at is being a celeb & picking sports brackets. Get back whats left of the pork bill before its to late. Government bank, Government Motors, Now the Dems want Government Healthcare. South Carolina forced to take redtape money. Hostel takeover anyone? then Dems complain about Gitmo terrorists being treated unfairly and turn around and do nothing about fair elections in Iran. Don't forget about the inspector general getting fired. This guy reminds me of Chavez

    June 19, 2009 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  4. Shibumi

    One way to reduce health care costs without spending a dime.......Tort Reform. That is, if a lawyer brings a suit against a doctor / hospital / clinic, etc and loses the case; he pays for all legal bills of the winner. Ambulance chasing trial lawyers will be kept at bay, and physician malpractice insurance will drop thus reducing cost.
    Does Bo Bo have the coconuts to propose that? Doubt it. His lawyer contributions would dry up.

    June 19, 2009 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  5. TomJay

    Quick. Blame it on Bush. All because Obama doesn't have the cojones to stick it to the trial lawyers or otherwise seriously attack costs.

    June 19, 2009 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  6. Don

    Do not be fooled by the Repubs or the media... America CAN and WILL provide healthcare coverage for all. It isn't a political issue... it's about basic human rights.

    Do not let the insurance giants continue to carve America up into an unfair class system

    June 19, 2009 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  7. Concerned

    I understand the philosophy behind expanding access... but why does Congress and Obama assume that the rest of us (with health insurance and steady jobs) would be willing and able to support the cost of this insurance program through higher taxes and taxes on the health benefits we receive? What's the benefit to us? I don't find it very beneficial to think that my "reward" for Obama's health plan is higher and higher taxes!

    June 19, 2009 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  8. CAW in MD

    For all the naysayers (you know who you are), I've got a couple of questions:

    1) For those people who say we can't afford health care reform - that's patently stupid. Of course we can afford it. It just means that we have to either redirect existing streams of money away from what they currently fund to fund this. Or, taxes can be raised. There are choices - it is time for our elected officials to make those choices.

    1a) And by the way, doing nothing about this doesn't mean that we save money - the current system and its costs will continue to skyrocket. Most everybody believes something needs to be done.

    2) For those people who say that the government can't effectively run health care, and that private competition is the only way, let me ask this - our current health care system is private now, and if you reference question 1a above, everybody believes it needs to change. So what specifically can you point to that says the private sector is doing such a bang-up job that we should trust them to fix health care? Don't give me theory, give me facts. The fact is, there is no true "competition" in today's health care market. Republicans are scared that if there is a government option, then the insurance companies are out of business. If private industry cannot provide a service more cheaply than the government, then they should be out of business. Isn't that why there was so much push to "privatize" government jobs - private industry could do it better and cheaper? Why isn't the reverse true?

    There are ways to get this done that are budget neutral that will also improve our health care delivery. Congress doesn't want to make those tough choices. We should be pressuring Congress to make those choices, not waste time on the "should we or shouldn't we?" debate. We should. Let's get it done.

    June 19, 2009 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  9. NeverScared

    @@@@@Stacy........you said NOTHING but the good to honest TRUTH about the matter. It's incredible seeing people defend the party that is largely to blame for why THEIR healthcare costs are through the roof!

    Those very politicians who scream about COSTS aren't telling you that THEY have the SINGLE PAYER option. Insurance companies will be forced to charge actual COMPETITIVE rates. The GOP is always screaming "competition", well............................................... let the insurance companies COMPETE!

    UPS and FedEx didn't put the Post Office out of business, even then Republicans were hollering "it'll put XYZ industry out of business". That's bs and they know it!

    June 19, 2009 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  10. Greg

    Health insurance is NOT a fundamental right!!! Where do you people get off acting so entitled? T

    hat's NOT how this Nation was founded and that's NOT the direction we should take if we ever want to return to the days of prosperity. If you want nationalized healthcare move to Europe or Canada,

    OR... get a job. It's not my fault you didn't plan well. I'm all for my tax dollars going to those who can't help themselves or who temporarily fall on bad times due to circumstances BEYOND their control. But lazy (jobless / uneducated by their own valition) , drug addicted, or selfish individuals (who don't think they SHOULD have to pay to be healthy) have NO God given right to health care or health insurance.

    The rest of us planned our lives a little... went to school... worked hard... got a job with benefits... you can too! Nothing was handed to us... nothing should be handed to you.

    June 19, 2009 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  11. R J Koser

    A public option needs to be there, especially for the underinsured or non-insured. Folks medicare is a public plan. No one wants to get rid of it. Republicans talk of government bureaucrats getting between doctors and patients. What about insurance bureaucrats looking at the bottom line and not covering conditions because it affects the bottom line. P:rivate insurance looks to the bottom line for profits and the needs of the patient may not fit the bottom line. Maybe the insurance companies need some regulation. Health care is a basic human right, not a privilege.

    June 19, 2009 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  12. Mike in SA

    So Emma...you want us to carry the financial burden of universal health care so that you can retire early??? Give me a freakin' break!

    Got a question for the rest of you. Do you think Teddy Kennedy would be getting near the level of treatment as he currently is if he were relying on a government administered and funded health plan for an average citizen? If he were in Canada, he would still be waiting for the first of his ongoing treatments after his initial hospitalization.

    June 19, 2009 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  13. Really?

    Overwhelming support to invade a country. because.why?.........billions upon billions to feed the dogs of war and supply them with the machiniations of their craft....billions upon billions to bail out the "free market" because the free market really can not handle "free part" on the flip side.........See...people, the money has already been spent...How do you like the purchase? We bought these lies.........So why not that it's just to expensive to provide for the health and well being of the citizenery? It's not like other countries do this right?

    June 19, 2009 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  14. Andy

    Spend a trillion dollars on health care, when we have a trillion and a half deficit? Whatever political side you are on, we cannot do this and survive as a nation. We need to get back on our feet before this type of commitment again. Health care is important, so are the police, fire and schools that are disappearing in my neighborhood....

    June 19, 2009 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  15. tess

    it's about time the american people learned the details of everything o'bama is trying to do to this country ! for those who want socialism all you have to do is pack for a trip abroad and your wish is granted, just pray that you don't get sick! when the sun shines on the rest of his agenda it will all start going down in flames and the sooner the better for all of us – dem o republicans!

    June 19, 2009 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  16. Shawn

    donttreadonme wrote: "Americans are waking up to realize that socializing Healthcare is not really a fix. The Republicans plan is just a better plan and the dems know it!"

    The Republican "plan" is a sham and you know it.

    More than 3/4 of Americans (76%) want a public option. But, because congresspeople of both parties (who enjoy free government healthcare for life, of course) are owned by the insurance companies, a public option is in jeapardy. It's wrong. Lobbyists are too powerful. They are more powerful than American voters and this is ruining our democracy. This is not a partisan thing.

    Private insurance wouldn't go anywhere. A public OPTION is a compromise and you can make your own choice. In fact, competition with a public option would make the insurance companies better. I'm not swayed by bogeymanism over "socialism" or whatever. Americans deserve better.

    June 19, 2009 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  17. Rachelraye49 - MD

    What is the big deal on giving all Americans a chance to be insured? They don't really care about this health bill simply because they are covered for free. I am covered with health insurance and I'm please with my current insurer. But, if everybody can have some kind of health insurance why not. Come on, after all this is America. Quite being selfish.

    June 19, 2009 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  18. green texan

    wow, you sound like a friendly guy... so because JAE's opinion on the matter is different than yours, you want he & his kids to go to hell?? people like you are the reason this country has gone to hell... maybe you should leave. i hope you're not procreating. wow. rude!

    June 19, 2009 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  19. Steve (the real one)

    @Allen June 19th, 2009 3:37 pm ET

    You are a republican, therefore you regurgitate every g.o.d d.a.m.n.e.d thing that you hear from your party. ...... Go to hell and take your children with you for there is a chance that they may grow up to be just like you and I cannot afford that in my country.
    Aren't you suppose to be the tolerant one?? That's what your party keep spouting!!! Or does that apply to gays and illegals only??? No regurgitation from you, ever, right? You are very sad a and lonely person! We certainily don't want your kids to grow up like you either! I AM A CONSERVATIVE!

    June 19, 2009 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  20. Bill F

    Obama should talk to New Yorkers who already have access to (state) government sponsored health insurance plans. I'm sure he'll hear that the plans offered are far inferior to what the average person considers quality healthcare. He plans to finance this by "rooting out waste, fraud and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid". Hello, if he could accomplish such a feat that itself would provide significant reform to our healthcare system. Fact is he cannot and will not which means more money will be coming out of the taxpayers pockets to finance a plan that will fail. In NY State these government sponsored plans are farmed out to private insurance companies to administer because state government does not have the proper expertise or updated technology to manage the these plans or monitor fraud and abuse. And guess what? The private insurers don't do this for free (more of your tax dollars up in smoke). State government cannot manage this and neither can Federal Government. One would be foolish to think otherwise.

    June 19, 2009 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  21. Jason

    Dems getting scared of Mr. Obama...LOL...This is funny...You should have thought about this before the election. If you would listen to some people because they were trying to tell you this man is TERRIBLE and has NO clue how to run a country.

    June 19, 2009 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  22. NeverScared

    Many of you dummies can't seem to understand the difference between an OPTION and a REQUIREMENT.

    Obama said you that you can CHOOSE either a Federally funded, privately run program or what you currently have NOW. It's that simple.

    Politicians are shouting this nonsense rhetoric about SOCIALISM and COSTS because the "healthcare" industry keeps them employed...COLD, HARD, TRUTH.

    June 19, 2009 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  23. Ripping my Bible up brings Unity

    Cnn what a bunch of crap. Are you Fox News. I am reading a book on industrial plant creating and organizing a business model. Good articles have come out this week that are framing a discussion. Stop preaching from the David Iche Sam Kinison Assembly of Reich and Baptist God party of No. M

    June 19, 2009 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  24. Loren in CA

    If "government-run healthcare" is so bad, why does every member of Congress choose to have it? And the President?

    There needs to be a system that allows every American some measure of care, that doesn't have people clinging to jobs that might not be right for them simply because they're afraid to lose their insurance.

    The insurance companies will pay tens of billions, maybe even hundreds of billions of dollars to kill any plan that might diminish their ability to profit from the suffering of others. Compared to the potential profit loss, it's chump change to them.

    June 19, 2009 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  25. Mr Manhattan

    The truth of the matter is in Canada and in Europe free health care does work. it does come out of the tax payers pockets but not in a wasteful way that would eliminate the middle class (which is what has happened to AMERICA under the Bush REGIME ). In this country it could be so doable if we quit overtaxing the middle class and let the rich pay their fair amount of taxes ( which is why the rich voted in the Bush regime). We the People need to let our representatives in Washington know how we would like our taxes invested. If that takes up to much of an investment of your time then just do as FOX NEWS tells you to, which is dont support any party that wants to incorporate policies that might help your quality of life. Instead just support the party that caters to the rich: the Rethuglicans. The middle class grew poorer as the rich got richer under Dubya's & the GOP's rule. Do you actually think it happened by accident? Morons!

    June 19, 2009 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
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