July 26th, 2009
03:46 PM ET
9 years ago

Conrad: Dems lack votes to pass health care reform on their own

Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad said Sunday that it's 'not possible, and perhaps not desirable either' for his party to pass health care reform without Republican support.

Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad said Sunday that it's 'not possible, and perhaps not desirable either' for his party to pass health care reform without Republican support.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - A key Democratic senator in health care reform negotiations said Sunday that his party lacks the votes to pass a bill through Congress on its own.

Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota told the ABC program "This Week" that the issue affecting every American and more than 15 percent of the U.S. economy requires broad support.

Asked if Democrats could push through a bill without Republican support, Conrad said: "It is not possible, and perhaps not desirable either."

Conrad is one of a handful of Senate Finance Committee members - Democrats and Republicans - negotiating a compromise bill that would be the first bipartisan health care proposal.

The Finance Committee version lacks a government-funded public insurance option favored by Democrats and included in a Democratic bill already passed by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky told CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday that none of his fellow Republicans in the chamber supported the public insurance option.

Conrad has proposed an alternative to the public option that calls for health insurance cooperatives that could arrange collective coverage for members. He said such non-profit cooperatives would provide competition for private insurers while avoiding the Republican concern of government-funded programs monopolizing the health insurance market.

"There is an alternative that puts forth the best of both sides," Conrad said.

Republican Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina indicated such a compromise could appeal to his party.

"We can have a plan in a few weeks if the goal is not a government takeover," DeMint said on "This Week."

On the House side, Speaker Nancy Pelosi insists a Democratic proposal that includes the public option will win approval from the full chamber, despite squabbling among House Democrats over the measure's cost.

In a pre-taped interview broadcast Sunday on "State of the Union," Pelosi said she would corral enough votes to move forward President Barack Obama's top domestic priority this year.

One of the squabbling House Democrats, Rep. Jim Cooper of Tennessee, agreed a House bill could pass this year, but he called for more specifics from Pelosi and Obama on how the proposal under debate in the House would work.

"We want a good bill to pass this year and I think that can happen," said Cooper, one of the 52 fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats who are questioning the cost of the House bill that so far has passed two committees.

The Blue Dogs have enough votes on a third committee - the Energy and Commerce panel - to prevent the bill from moving to the full House for a vote. They have so far squeezed one concession from Obama - creation of an independent body to recommend levels of Medicare reimbursement in coming years.

"I think that the American people want to take a closer look at this legislation," Cooper said on the CBS program "Face the Nation."

"They want to feel comfortable with it."

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office predicted the House bill would cost more than $1 trillion over 10 years, and end up increasing the federal deficit by $239 billion in that period. Supporters of the bill contend the CBO analysis failed to factor in all spending cuts, such as reduced costs due to planned preventive care programs.

Cooper said the goal of any legislation should be to slow the current rate of health spending, which he said runs at 2.5 percent above inflation. Holding that increase to the rate of inflation would make health care more sustainable in the long run, he said.

"But there's resistance to that because a lot of the health care sector has gotten so fat and happy on the extra money, they don't know how to just live on an inflationary adjustment," Cooper said.

The House bill includes Democratic proposals for a public option, mandates for people to be insured and for employers to provide coverage, and an end to lack of coverage due to a pre-existing condition.

Republicans oppose a government-funded option and any requirement for employers to provide coverage. They also call for limits on medical malpractice lawsuits, which Democrats don't favor, along with a number of provisions
contained in the Democratic bills, including increased efficiency in Medicare and Medicaid and a focus on preventive health programs.

The House is scheduled to break for its August recess on July 31, with the Senate's planned break beginning Aug. 7.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said last week the chamber would not vote on health care before the upcoming recess to give the Finance Committee more time to work out its compromise plan.

Reid's announcement went against Obama's stated timetable for both the House and Senate to turn out bills before the August break. After Reid's statement, Obama said he would accept a delay so long as work toward passing a bill continued.

Pelosi has said she wants a House vote before the break, and House leaders have indicated the chamber could remain in session past the start of the scheduled recess to get the bill passed.

Once each chamber passes a bill, a conference committee will merge the two measures into a single proposal that must win approval from the legislators before going to Obama. The president wants a bill on his desk this year to take advantage of the momentum of his new administration and avoid the thornier political climate of mid-term congressional elections in 2010.

Filed under: Congress • Health care • Obama administration • Popular Posts
soundoff (46 Responses)
  1. Steve (the real one)

    Well, well, well! The president can't force feed this plan to his own party! Yet he expects us to buy it! Sorry, without details, I am not buying it! Thankfully, it sounds like eyes are starting to open!

    July 26, 2009 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  2. MaryanneAZ

    I wonder what part of 70%+ of Americans want a robust public option the GOP and Blue Cross Democrats do not understand? They represent us. They are subject to re-election. If they do not carry water for us, then we will find people who will. This is really not rocket science. No one is getting behind a silly co-op alternative as there are too many variables and no guarantees. Anything short of a robust public option is a non-starter for the American people. Next.

    July 26, 2009 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  3. kishen c.rao

    Bring all democrats together, and pass the health care reform....don't these guys know that AMA, hospitals and insurance groups, pharmacy groups, and even doctors are robbing...the nation????shame on it...America, you relentlessly support to pass the health care issue...God bless you...the USA!!!Whether patients are in need of the tests or not, they are doing it because of getting money...ok, even, foreign doctors, from india are cheating on health care, medicare, etc, whether patient needed or not, they are doing swan gantz for 320/ dollars from insurance....insurance premiums are jacking up....deductions are going up and people are in troubles...don't these sanetors and congressmen know this?????shame, America, have health care legislation passed...it is not socielistic legislation, is it social....ok....

    July 26, 2009 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  4. Zero.

    So will the Food they sell in "Fast Foods". You still dont seem to understans what a mess your in Mr USA. When/Where do you choose for your "Cut-Backs". Every one is out for themselves.

    %75 elected your idiot Obama. But only %48 trust hime today.

    Everything is going to go down now. Because he failed them.

    July 26, 2009 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  5. Mike

    Let me see, we pay more (ie taxes), get less like poorer health care and the government controls an information bank on us. Great idea:, not! I just wish they would fix or take better care of what we already have, Maybe tort reform, and looking for waist could go a long way.

    July 26, 2009 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  6. The black spider

    The fact that matter is some democrats that oppose the bill are not acting intelligently. If they kill the bill and on the next election the republicans regain control or the senate the small power they have now will even be tarnished for a long time and they are even risking their political carreer because the majory of the american people want reform now.

    July 26, 2009 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |

    Hillary Clinton must be having a huge laugh about this.

    She was put in charge of healthcare legislation.
    I honestly think that the Clintons would get a kick out of Obama's "Waterloo"

    July 26, 2009 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  8. Chris

    Apparently kent Conrad isnt familiar with the process called reconciliation which basically means since Obama officially has a super majority democratic house and senate or "60 votes" Leading democrats and push through a health care bill without one single republican vote and quite frankly thats what the democrats should do. All this talk about "the republicans will rise again if this bill passes just like in 94" is bull crap because now its a lot of these FAKE democrats for "blue dog democrats" that are holding up this bill, WE NEED HEALTH CARE REFORM AND NEED IT NOW!

    July 26, 2009 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  9. Nini

    Then why Obama attacks Republicans?

    July 26, 2009 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |

    If Kent were to vote for the health care bill, he will be quickly voted out of his senate seat and replaced in the next election cycle. We North Dakotans are pretty sick and tired of him and these growing federal deficits.

    July 26, 2009 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  11. Jerry

    Not enough votes , Why is that ? Could be because many Obama supporters are taking a second look at there president after the health care news conference? Watch the presidents poll numbers go into a death spiral in the next couple weeks folks. Hope is not a plan

    July 26, 2009 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  12. Zero.

    CNN's "Havard Proffessor" says a lot about the Idiot they helped Elect.

    July 26, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  13. Betty Vierra

    Thank you for working on the health care reform bill, Senator Conrad, but many of us disagree with you that a public option plan will not pass the Senate. All it takes is senators like yourself being positive. As someone said, politics is the art of the possible; we, ourselves, by what we say and do, help determine the realm of what is possible. A public option is essential to the success of reform, both in terms of cutting costs and in achieving the broadest access. In addition, it would work in so well with preventive care and the idea of helping to keep our citizens healthy. Please keep an open mind.

    July 26, 2009 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  14. lynn in NM

    That can't possibly be true. Everyone loves Obama and all of the Dems are falling all over him to get his ideas passed. Oh wait. That was the media position before the election.

    July 26, 2009 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  15. Another loss for Obama....

    his approval rating is now under 50%, which means that any Congressman or Senator voting for Obama's bills will also be under 50%.....think about it .

    July 26, 2009 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  16. Simmy

    Kent Conrad is a Blue Dog trying to promote his own agenda.....He's pedaling a "CO-OP" type healthcare that is nothing more than cosmetics put on existing insurance (he's sold his soul to the lobby-men), with one exception - middle class Americans will end up paying far more....It sounds like insurance that allows every individual to contribute equally.....What it will end up being is a disaster.....He, Baucus and a few others, have placed a stronghold on the notion of a public plan option.......Their criticisms are wrapped up in fear, lies, and status quo.......It's time to beat those Dogs down (at the polls)....

    July 26, 2009 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  17. Larry

    The concept of health insurance cooperatives invites price fixing by insurance companies. Numerous insurance companies in many states have been sued for price fixing in the past.

    The concept of a public option makes insurance companies sweat. I've always liked the concept because it is the cheapest way to go. There is already discussion that so many people would switch to the public option that it would drive insurance companies out of business.

    July 26, 2009 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  18. indiana voter

    Democrats need for it to be bi-partisan so that when it is a failure with the American people, they can say that it was bi-partisan and not solely the Democrats who ruined the system, or made it worse. That is the only reason they "need" Republicans to vote yes. Hopefully, Republicans can see this strategy, and vote no, and just let the Dems own it. Then, if it passes and it doesn't work, they have no one to blame but themselves.

    July 26, 2009 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  19. katiec

    The republicans just refuse to give in to anything that will not benefit their insurance companies.
    The majority of the American people who want Health Care Reform want public option. Anything else will be a farce and, once again, the raping of the American people.
    Public option will make the insurance companies become competitive and accountable. They will not be able to deny, cancel
    insurance at every whim and will not be able to continue on with
    their outragous premiums, profits, bonuses, perks and
    unethical behavior.

    July 26, 2009 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  20. Linda

    It was reported yesterday that Palin was going to write a book about her life. I hope she has enough crayons.

    July 26, 2009 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  21. Runningdarkwolf

    A message to the Blue Dogs Democrats: I respect your concerns. I appriciate what you are trying to accomplish. Hell, I agree with you on most things. However, If you all let health reform die, I promise you I will spend every waking moment trying to get rid of you!!!! The choice is a simple one: Get something done or get out. I refuse to wait another 10 year for health reform. Compromise gentlemen, that is may advice to you. Please take it.

    July 26, 2009 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  22. Henry Miller, Cary, NC

    At least a little common sense seems to be breaking out...

    July 26, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  23. Zero.

    You are out out of sinc CNN. I will win. Barack Obama is History.
    You can try and try to dominate the Airwaves But this is not 1959.

    This is the age of the internet. But more so... Fast/Net.

    You do not control anything today. Your so called "Digital Power" went in a flash. CNN are playing catch-Up. You can talk as big as you want. What you really need to do is some more "Home Work"

    July 26, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  24. Deborah

    They should stay and work until it's done! And Democrats should act like Democrats – these Bluedogs might as well put an R next to their names – they are not Democrats!

    July 26, 2009 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  25. Cindy Merrill

    My husband and I just got turned down for a SNAP Food credit increase ; He's diabetic and we live on SSI. Which would you prefer: An extra $100 for dietic food, or $180,000 a month for Hospital costs if or when John has a Diabetic blackout or slips into a Coma? You already pay for his SS and VA, so you decide. If Obama wants to prevent complications associated with diabeties, obesity, heart disease and other ailments, wouldn't it make sense to issue specified food vouchers/ Dietic foods/Care boxes to VA clinics,Food pantries and other institutions that address the needs of Low income Americans? And why is it that Government Commodities ( delivered to Non Profit Organizations) are extremely high in Sodium and Carbs? I thought the goal is to decrease the cost of healthcare. Isn't that what this is all about?

    July 26, 2009 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
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