June 19th, 2009
02:55 PM ET
5 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. Terry

    We have two choices:

    1. Create a system that can provide appropriate preventative care and medical treatment to all our citizens, or

    2. Some of us are going to suffer unnecessarily and die younger than we otherwise would.

    I think Conservatives are right when they admit that America doesn't have the brains, ingenuity, and guts to take on this challenge – even though other, apparently more advanced countries have done it.

    But...
    If old people die early, that will decrease demand for medical services and the free market will reduce the cost of medical care. And, if children die unnecessarily, it will actually be cheaper for their parents to have another kid to replace the dead one than to keep the first one alive in many cases.

    So, our national health policy should be: "What, the poor have no medical care? Then let them eat cake."

    June 19, 2009 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  2. kishen c.rao

    pres. obama is 100 percent right...it is the time to fix health care....listen....it is true..........americans are suffering without it....God bless, usa...

    June 19, 2009 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  3. tjaman

    I don't understand how anyone is rolling up their toes in glee that the status quo might win the day. The status quo SUCKS. Seriously, our costs for health care are 50 percent more per capita than the next costliest nation, could dwarf Social Security and MILITARY SPENDING (?!) in 20 years, our coverage is what it is and the only people who seem to be thriving are private insurers?

    On yer bike, Congress, and FIGHT FOR REFORM!

    June 19, 2009 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  4. Allen

    A few notes for the record.

    1) I am not a democrat. Typical democrats are far too conservative for me.

    2) This is my country. This is probably your country too, but far too many of you have forgotten that our nation was founded upon a certain set of beliefs. Many republicans have a contorted version of those beliefs so that they may use them to justify their faulty views and control more and more parts of other people's lives.

    3) While wishing someone's children to be banished to hell may seem quite rude, please understand that I have absolutely no more time in my life for people with ultra-conservative views. They poison our nation and I will not tolerate it. Further, I'm not so sure that I believe in the 'hell' that you believe in so please consider that I may just have been using it figuratively. As for the commonly conceived 'endless suffering' that comes with 'hell', take that as you will.

    4) I am quite a likeable person IRL. I love people and people love me. I do anything that I can to help others when times are tough. I simply will not stand for someone who will say that quality, available health care shouldn't be a human right in this day and age. If the American people want something bad enough, they will find a way. People who attempt to scare others from the thought of a better health care system citing overwhelming cost are far too closed minded to have an opinion in the first place.

    June 19, 2009 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  5. Allen OH

    Any health care reform that doesn't include universal coverage and limit health insurance profits is a sham and a rip-off of the taxpayer. There are lots of good ideas on controlling costs long term – and limiting profit on providers of health care services should not be on the table. But why on earth should the US Taxpayer subsidize payments to for profit insurance companies whose profits then depend on KEEPING THE MONEY AND NOT PAYING CLAIMS. Why would we trust an insurance company to do anything else. The focus needs to be on making coverage universal and finding ways to control costs and increase efficiency – not on subsidizing insurance company profits so they can screw over millions more people each year.

    June 19, 2009 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  6. Laurie

    Hey Greg...I can safely assume that you would allow someone to die if they didn't have insurance and had a life threatening emergency. Am I correct? How about that little child who doesn't have health insurance? He/she would also just have to die? If we subscribe to your way of thinking than only certain people will be entitled to avail themselves of health care and any life saving treatment they might need. All the rest may have to die. Am I reading your comment correctly? If so I can only hope that you never get cancer or any other life threatening disease or injury that might not be covered by your so called insurance. Because, if that happens I wonder how you would feel if that the response to you is go over there in that corner and wait to die.

    June 19, 2009 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  7. seebofubar

    ALLEN,
    Sounds like you had a lobotomy. Weather you'd like to believe it or not, Obama is a worthless egotistical maniac that if left unchecked will destroy all that is good in this country.

    June 19, 2009 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  8. Cheri

    The Senators and congress don't care if all americans get health care as long as they continue to get theirs.They get the best that money can buy and they get it for life.

    June 19, 2009 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  9. geecee

    How about no health care coverage for anyone. It isn't actually a basic fundamental human right, it's a privilege. So, if you can't pay for it out of pocket, then you don't get it. It's that simple. All sick people will just have to die, all poor people better not get sick. A lot of medical personnel (both doctors and nurses) will not have jobs and hospitals will go out of business for lack of patients. But best of all, insurance companies will be out of business too. Sounds good to me.

    June 19, 2009 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  10. Mike, Syracuse, NY

    Of course this will be enormously expensive. Of course Obama and the Dems have no plan on how to pay for it. That would be responsible government, and oxymoron when speaking of Democrats.

    June 19, 2009 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  11. skyhawkdriver

    "Hello,I'm from the government and I'm here to help"..the scariest a person can hear..the cost? Triple it..the government has never proven it has the ability to run anything..everyone it runs now is bloated and out of control..cost overuns in everything from military hardware to toilet seats..do you really want a person like ted kennedy telling you which doctor to see??..or how long you have to wait for surgery??..we are already saddled with gm and chrysler and aig and who knows what else..enough is enough..sink this sacred cow now

    June 19, 2009 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  12. Zero.

    It's having a Heart Attack...

    June 19, 2009 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  13. Greg

    Laurie...

    I think you conveniently skipped over the part where I said I'm ALL FOR my tax dollars going to help those who can't help themselves. Let's see, that would include people with physical and mental disability... CHILDREN.... and those who TEMPORARILY fall on hard times through circumstances beyond their control.

    It is in society's best interest to act as a safety net... not as a bottomless ATM for laziness and greed.

    I will concede the point that... if you work your tail off and there is NO affordable option available to help defray the cost of healthcare... then no I wouldn't want to see that person left to die. But if someone is too lazy to get out of bed in the morning and put in an honest day's work... and he get's sick... well that's one less leach bleeding our tax revenue dry.

    June 19, 2009 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  14. Ben

    Allen – Healthcare is NOT a right, it's a privilege. Too many people don't understand that.

    June 19, 2009 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  15. nota dem

    It would be a significant day in history, poor muslim, white hater, smoke screen blower anti-christ didnt get his way and lost because people can see through his smoke screen. Obama's health care will ruin this country and make America like Russia and Obama would then be Osama the antiu-christ or the new Hitler .

    Compare history and the bible.

    June 19, 2009 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  16. Liz

    I don't know a single person who thinks that healthcare in this country is good. I have never been without insurance thanks to my employer but I have been saddled with enormous co-payments for what the insurance carrier calls a "specialist", an outrageous prescription deductible of 1500.00 to meet before I can get anything filled. I have a primary care physician that is so overbooked with patients it takes weeks to get an appointment, then once I do get in to see her I wait a minumum of two hours for the privelege of a five minute visit.

    Healthcare needs an overhaul now not later!

    June 19, 2009 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  17. Don

    On the rocks because the Repugs don't have a clue, and the dems don't have a pair. We will remember this come election time.

    June 19, 2009 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  18. Jen from CA

    Allen,

    HEALTH CARE IS NOT A RIGHT! IT IS A RESPONSIBILITY! In this day and age, people should begin to take responsibility for themselves!

    Laurie,

    Just because someone doesn't want government run health doesn't mean they want children to die. And liberals blame Republicans for scare tactics. Health care is available to anyone, you just have to pay for it. In that way, when some whiney liberal has a runny nose and goes to the doctor for a bag of antibioticsm, I and you don't have to pay for it.

    What happened to the good sense of people when they think the government will run something well? Didn't they try to run GM and Chrysler? Now, buying a Hummer is buying a Chinese truck.
    Heck, let Wal-Mart run the health care system. At least they figured out how to offer $4 prescription drugs and still turn a massive profit.

    June 19, 2009 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  19. totto

    Skyhawkdriver, ya ever hear of Medicare?

    June 19, 2009 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  20. Len

    TO JAE,

    What are the Republican ideas? I have not heard any new ideas. Just the same old policies. Please enlighten all of us.

    The illegal war in Irag has cost us over a trillion dollars. Thanks to the last administration. It also cost us over 4,000 men and women. Many more men and women with severe injuries....
    It has cost hundred's of thousand deaths of Irag men, women and children. It has cost millions of Irag men, women, and children who left the country.
    Let us not forget the economic problems caused by deregulation, tax cuts for the rich, and big businesses. When are you going to understand that taxes need to be paid or you will lose your city, state and federal services. WAKE UP.

    Please do not preach unless you and your Republican party can admit to mistakes (they cannot) and have ideas that will help all Americans.

    June 19, 2009 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  21. Lorna, PA

    When nothing changes and the almost 50 million people who have NO health insurance in this country remain uninsured let's all remember just where the blame lies...with the Congress of the United States who knows their butts are insured and to hell with the rest. Don't blame the President for it....this lies squarely with Congress and any right thinking person recognizes this fact.

    June 19, 2009 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  22. All Good Things

    Let's investigate the Dems who are against sharing the government plan they get with the rest of the country. All senators, Gop and Dem receive GOVERNMENT healthcare. If it sucks so much, as some claim, then give it up and go get some of that awsome private insurance so many of these crooked politicians want us to struggle with.

    Anyone trying to protect the private greed model of healthcare is on the take. Greed is party blind. Baccus, I'm looking at you!

    Something stinks in the senate.

    June 19, 2009 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  23. Greg

    geecee are you serious?

    Do you honestly think for a moment that if all the people who receive emergency medical care for FREE (because they don't have insurance and the hospital is required to treat them) suddenly stopped getting treatment that the hospitals & providers would go out of business?

    HELLO? pretty basic micro econ 101 here... expenses without a stream of revenue LOWER your bottom line. Erase that problem... bottom line goes UP.

    Trust me... there's plenty of sick people with coverage and it doesn't take being wealthy to afford coverage. I'm middle class at absolute best and I have excellent coverage... completely paid for by my employer. They pay my premiums, deductible, and co-pays... not a penny out of pocket. It's called shopping around for an employer who cares about their employees and wants to attract the best.

    But... then you've got to BE the best :)

    June 19, 2009 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  24. Ben

    Stacy from Leesburg, VA – What have you been smoking? And the Democrats haven't been fear-mongering? Have you even been paying attention lately? What do you think Obama's been doing? That's ALL he's been doing! And calling anyone who disagrees with Obama's Master Plan unpatriotic is beneath contempt. You Dems are supposed to be people of tolerance. Sorry, I don't see that at all.

    June 19, 2009 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  25. Hammerer

    Try moving out of daddy's house and get a job or better yet quit waiting for someone else to take care of yuor needs and get a job and pay your own way. If the free loaders would work and attempt to help themselves folks that really need help could get it.
    The real problem is that the welfare lifers have become such a burden on all social services that the working class can no longer carry them.
    It is time to hold the lazy and the unwilling accountable and make teem earn their way.

    June 19, 2009 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
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