WASHINGTON (CNN) - The public option: It's a lighting rod in the current storm of health care reform. Federal lawmakers are split over whether such a government option should be included in any bill that comes out of Congress - and a new national poll indicates that Americans are equally divided.
Forty-seven percent of people questioned in an NBC News survey released Tuesday say they oppose a public or government option that would compete with private health insurers, with 43 percent supporting such an option. That 4 percent gap is bigger than the poll's sampling error.
The survey also suggests that Americans are split over whether a public option would help lower health care costs and provide insurance for many of the millions of Americans without coverage. Forty five percent agreed with that description but 48 percent said a public option would reduce access to their choice of doctors and limit their options for medical treatment.
"The latest CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll indicates that views of the government versus private insurance companies is largely dirven by partisan views," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Two-thirds of Democrats say they want health care decisions to be made by the government rather than insurance companies. Two-thirds of Republicans prefer insurers to the government."
The NBC News poll was conducted August 15-17, with 805 adults questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
–CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report
(CNN) - A new national poll suggests that most Americans don't think Sarah Palin's decision to step down as Alaska governor was a smart political move.
Sixty-one percent of people questioned in a Marist survey released Tuesday say Palin's resignation was a bad political move, while 15 percent feel it helps whatever political aspirations last year's Republican vice presidential nominee may have in the future. Eleven percent said it makes no difference, and 13 percent were unsure of its impact. Even among Republicans, 51 percent think the move hurt more than helped, with one in five GOP voters saying it was a smart move.
Palin, who stepped down last month as Alaska governor with a year and a half left in her first term in office, has been non-committal about any aspirations to run for national office, but she says that she wants to campaign across the country for candidates with ideas that she supports.
According to the poll, 43 percent hold an unfavorable view of the now-private citizen Palin, with 37 percent seeing her in a positive light and one in five unsure. Among Republicans, Palin has a 73 percent favorable rating, with 16 percent holding an unfavorable view. Independents appear split, and Democrats overwhelmingly hold an unfavorable opinion of Palin.
(CNN) - One day after Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison formally challenged him for his job, Texas Gov. Rick Perry fired back.
"I understand the senator's been in Washington for 16 years, and she may not have a grasp of what's going on in the state of Texas. She may not know or understand the progress we've made in this state," Perry said at a news conference Tuesday in Austin, Texas.
Hutchison officially announced her bid for Texas governor Monday, The move pitted her against Perry, a fellow Republican, and sparked what could be a bitter intra-party fight in the Lone Star State. As she kicked off a five-day, 19-stop "Texas Can Do Better" tour, the four-term U.S. senator slammed Perry's years in office for what she calls arrogance and mistakes, and she said "he's trying to stay too long - 14 years, maybe longer."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The president of a conservative group accused of "astroturfing" the recent protests at congressional town halls suggested Tuesday that a rift is showing in the Democratic Party on health care reform.
A day after Democrats took to the airwaves to push back on recent comments from an Obama cabinet member about the administration's possible willingness to compromise on a public health insurance option and two days after a longtime Clinton ally suggested Democrats should lay the groundwork to blame Republicans during the 2010 mid-term elections if health care reform legislation is not passed by year's end, the president and CEO of conservative advocacy group FreedomWorks said the health care reform debate is now "a debate between Democrats in their own party."
"I think you're seeing the White House and Democrats in Congress getting pulled in both directions," Matt Kibbe said. "They look schizophrenic and they are. One day they're for the government-run option and the next day they're for a compromise position."
"We are going to stop this process," Kibbe told a gathering of conservative bloggers and online activists, "and we probably won't see any bill this year. When we do that, we need to make sure that we offer a positive alternative." Kibbe described the current health care system as "wildly corrupted" by government regulation. "We have always believed in a system that is focused on what patients need – not what third parties need. . . . We really want to get at an individualized system where patients are in charge of things."
(CNN) - Georgia Republican Tom Price, the chairman of the House Republican Study Committee and a medical doctor, came out against current proposals of a nonprofit health care cooperative to compete with private insurers, calling it "simply another name for a public option."
"The specifics of including a co-op are murky at best. Any Washington control over such a structure would raise immense concern," Price said in a statement. "Patients should be wary of a wolf in sheep's clothing."
The statement from Price, a leading critic of Democratic efforts to pass a health care reform bill, could indicate the inclusion of a health care co-op instead of a public option will likely do little to attract Republican support for the bill in the House.
"Health care reform should start and end with empowering patients," Price also said. "We welcome any discussion of new ideas that will bring patients closer to the care they need without government getting in the way.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - U.S. President Barack Obama asserted Tuesday that there has been "movement in the right direction" from both Israelis and Palestinians in response to a renewed push for a comprehensive Middle East peace.
Obama made the claim during a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at the White House. The two leaders said they discussed a broad range of issues, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the prospect of nuclear-armed Iran, the evolving situation in Iraq, and several new health and education initiatives.
They also discussed the prospects for domestic political reform in Egypt - a sensitive subject for the U.S. administration and Mubarak, who is frequently criticized by human rights activists and political opponents for suppressing internal dissent.
"If all sides are willing to move off of the rut" that has characterized negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians in recent years, then "there's an extraordinary opportunity" for progress, Obama said.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A liberal Democrat in Congress told CNN Monday that President Obama will have a difficult time pushing his health care plan through the House if a government-run insurance program isn't included in the legislation.
Asked if he would vote against a final House bill that doesn't include a so-called public option, Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that House Democrats "wouldn't even bring it to the floor."
"In the House of Representatives, without a strong public plan, even stronger than the one we reported out of committee, I think it would have a very difficult time getting 218 votes," Weiner said.
"Look, the president has to lead on this, and he has to say very clearly a public option is important," Weiner said. "That we hold these insurance companies accountable and provide some competition. I would love to be the one carrying the ball for him, but unless he says a public option is the way to go, I'm going to be a No [vote], and so are a lot of people."
Weiner maintained that the "best" health care option would be "a single-payer plan, like Medicare for all Americans."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Obama administration is not backing away from its support for a public option as part of health-care reform, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stressed Tuesday.
"Here's the bottom line: Absolutely nothing has changed," Sebelius said.
"We continue to support the public option. That will help lower costs, give American consumers more choice and keep private insurers honest. If people have other ideas about how to accomplish these goals, we'll look at those, too. But the public option is a very good way to do this."
She made her remarks during an address at a Medicare conference.
Sebelius caused an uproar Sunday when she said on CNN's "State of the Union With John King" that a public insurance plan is "not the essential element" of health-care reform.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Conservative columnist and former CNN "Crossfire" co-host Robert Novak has died after a year-long battle with cancer, his family announced Tuesday. He was 78.
Novak died at home, just over a year after doctors diagnosed him with a malignant brain tumor in August 2008. He was a veteran columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and a regular commentator for CNN for 25 years, beginning when the network launched in 1980.
For most of that time, he was a co-host of the political debate program "Crossfire." But he also hosted a show with his longtime column co-author, Rowland Evans, and appeared as a panelist on shows like "The Capital Gang" and on PBS' "The McLaughlin Group."
He was dubbed "The Prince of Darkness" by friends for his pessimistic persona, and he used the nickname as the title of his 2007 memoir.
Novak got his first newspaper job in 1948, when he was still in high school. He served in the Army during the Korean War before turning to the news business, eventually starting his column with Evans at the now-defunct New York Herald-Tribune in 1963.
In 2003, he found himself at the center of the scandal over the exposure of CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson, when he published a column revealing her CIA status days after her husband challenged a key Bush administration justification for the invasion of Iraq. The scandal ultimately led to the conviction of Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, on charges of perjury, obstruction of justice and lying to investigators probing the leak.
Novak cooperated with a special prosecutor and was not charged in the case.