WASHINGTON (CNN) – Sen. John McCain has some advice for Democrats: have a “true sit-down” with Republicans on health care reform legislation.
“Well, first of all, unfortunately, there was no input by Republicans in the writing of the bill,” McCain said of the version of the legislation that came out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. “It was all a Democrat proposal. That’s not the way you want to begin if you’re really interested in a true bipartisan result.”
“It's got to be a true sit-down,” McCain added. “OK, what are you going to concede … how we can come together? Not: here's the plan, how can we fix it so it satisfies enough of you to call it ‘bipartisan?’
“That's a huge difference.”
Saying President Obama needs to be more specific about the reform proposals he favors, McCain also faulted how his former rival is handling health care reform.
“The president has laid out some ideas,” McCain said in an interview that aired Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union. “But I think the president has got to be more specific when we come down to exactly what these proposals are.
“And I don't think he's done that.
“I think they may have over learned the lesson of the Clinton proposal in '93, McCain added, “where they were totally specific proposals. Now there's not enough.”
Despite his criticism for the way Democrats are handling health care reform, McCain did express affection for one colleague on the other side of the aisle.
“Oh, yes,” McCain said when asked whether Sen. Ted Kennedy presence was missed in the health care debate on Capitol Hill.
“Senator Kennedy is an institution around here that is unique,” McCain told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King, “and there's no such thing as a senator who's irreplaceable.
“There's no one who comes as close to that word as Ted Kennedy. And we are philosophically opposed, but I have grown, over the years, to have the highest respect and affection.”
Kennedy, the Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee has been absent for most of the 111th Congress because he is battling cancer. In his absence, Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd largely took over responsibility for shepherding health care reform legislation through that committee, on which McCain also sits along with Dodd and Kennedy.