September 13th, 2009
06:52 PM ET
3 years ago

Two senators say House health-care proposal is dead

Sen. Harkin, who took over a key Senate committee after Sen. Ted Kennedy's death, said Sunday that the Senate's health care bill will have a strong public insurance option.
Sen. Harkin, who took over a key Senate committee after Sen. Ted Kennedy's death, said Sunday that the Senate's health care bill will have a strong public insurance option.

(CNN) - More and more, a possible compromise on how to overhaul the nation's ailing health-care system is taking shape.

Senators from both parties provided further clues Sunday to the potential form of a final agreement on the partisan issue that has sparked a heated nationwide debate, including last week's unprecedented heckling of President Barack Obama in Congress.

Two prominent senators said Sunday that a House health-care bill drafted by Democrats and vehemently opposed by Republicans and conservatives is dead. The senators - Democrat Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina - said on Fox News Sunday that any chance for a health-care overhaul focuses now on a compromise bill being negotiated by members of the Senate Finance Committee.

Another senior Demoratic lawmaker on Sunday promised that the Senate's health-care bill would include a public option that would have support from "some" Republicans.

"The bill - mark my word, I'm the chairman - is going to have a strong public option," said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who recently fill the late Sen. Ted Kennedy's seat as chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Harkin was speaking to a supportive crowd at his annual steak fry fundraiser for Iowa Democrats.

Meanwhile, a moderate Republican senator considered one of the few who might cross the aisle to support health-care legislation being pushed by Democrats said she rejects a possible compromise provision - a trigger mechanism that would bring in a government-funded public health insurance option in the future if initial reforms fail to achieve specific thresholds.

Republicans unanimously oppose the public option as an unfair competitor that would drive private insurers out of the market, which they say would bring a government takeover of health care. Democratic supporters reject that claim as misinformation, saying a non-profit public option would be one choice for consumers who also could sign up for private coverage.

"The problem with the trigger is it just delays the public option," Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine told CNN's "State of the Union," explaining that the people who would determine whether creation of a public option gets triggered would be those who "want the public option."

The health-care debate entered a new phase last week with the return of Congress from its August recess and Obama's speech to a joint session of Congress last Wednesday.

Public concern, and in some cases outright hostility, over Democratic health-care proposals dominated many town hall meetings during the recess. Obama's speech presented his most detailed outline of possible legislation so far, but also produced an attention-grabbing moment when Republican Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina shouted "you lie" at the president.

Much of the anger focuses on a Democratic proposal, HR 3200, that was approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee in July and includes the public option, higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans and other provisions opposed by Republicans and conservatives.

Obama's proposal, outlined in his speech, is similar to the compromise measure being negotiated by the six members of the Senate Finance Committee - three Republicans and three Democrats, including Conrad. The focus on the work by the negotiators, who expect their bill to be taken up by the full committee on Sept. 21, prompted Conrad and Graham to declare the House health-care legislation moot.

"It looks like the House bill is dead," Graham said. "It looks like all the action is now in the Senate."

Conrad agreed, saying "the only thing that has a prospect of passing" is the compromise that he and the other Finance Committee members are negotiating.

Conrad has proposed creating non-profit health insurance cooperatives as an alternative to the public option. Obama cited the approach as a possible middle-ground in his speech to Congress.

Graham, however, said Obama and Democratic leaders still are trying to do too much, too fast by proposing legislation that will cost $900 billion over 10 years. He rejected Obama's assertion that about half the costs can be covered by reducing fraud and waste in the government-run Medicare and Medicaid programs.

"No one's found them before," Graham said of such savings. "The only way you're going to find them now is to do something no one's been willing to do and that is to go in and change the system."

On the possible trigger mechanism for public option, Collins answered "no" when asked Sunday if she could support it. The idea was first proposed by her fellow senator and moderate Republican from Maine, Olympia Snowe, as a potential compromise for Republicans and moderate Democrats concerned about a public option.

Snowe, who is one of the six Senate Finance Committee negotiators, said Sunday on the CBS program Face the Nation that the proposal under consideration doesn't contain a trigger provision.

"It's not on the table, and it won't be," Snowe said. "We'll be using the (cooperatives proposed by Conrad) as an option at this point, as the means for injecting competition in the process."

However, moderate Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana signaled her potential backing for a trigger provision, telling the ABC program This Week that she could "support potentially a fallback, but only if the private sector is allowed and given a great opportunity to get this right."

Obama and the Democrats have enough seats in both the House and Senate to pass a health-care bill without Republican support, but want some Republican votes to try to ease the partisan divide. Landrieu and other moderate Democrats in both chambers are considered the most crucial votes necessary to get a bill through Congress.

The next step is for both the House and Senate to pass bills in coming weeks, leading to a conference committee with members from both chambers who would negotiate a compromise proposal. Both the House and Senate would then have to approve the revised measure to send it to Obama for signing into law.

Snowe said the goal was producing a bill that could win support from Republicans as well as Democrats. She criticized what she called the "unfortunate and disgraceful" heckling by Wilson as a detriment to reaching a bipartisan agreement.

"I've served 16 years here and I've never witnessed that," Snowe said, later adding: "... Frankly, if there was more civility, we perhaps could get more done for the American people."

Wilson apologized last Wednesday for what he called inappropriate behavior, but maintains that Obama was wrong in saying his health-care proposal would not provide free health insurance for illegal aliens. On Sunday, Wilson said he won't apologize again on the House floor as demanded by House Democrats, who are threatening to censure him.

–CNN's Chris Welch and Martina Stewart contributed to this report.

Updated: 6:52 p.m.


Filed under: Congress • Health care • Kent Conrad • Lindsey Graham • Susan Collins • Tom Harkin
soundoff (85 Responses)
  1. Jeff Spangler, Arlington, VA

    Obama can count votes and knows that: (1) the House bills are indeed dead, and (2) the Senate wil not pass a public option. Get poltiically real and do what is possible, not what you wish. Wishing doesn't make it so.

    September 13, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  2. Simmy

    Those two don't equal one good Congressman......They're as effective as Jefferson......I hope their careers die as well.

    September 13, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  3. Reformer

    Honest and reliable health care reform cannot possibly succeed! Know why? In the United States, health care is like oil or soybeans. Its a commodity and there is money to be made. (and greedy, corrupt politicians to be purchased)

    No way will private business voluntarily reign in profits for the benefit of Americans. This is why capitalism and reformed health care cannot coexist.

    September 13, 2009 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  4. disgusted

    Actually, here is how it is. We are not going to get true health-care reform, we are not going to get true banking reform, we are not going to get true election finance reform. Why? Because WE pay every single one of you over $150K a year, and YOU have a public health option, and retirement paid by US, plus you get hundreds of thousands of dollars from corporations to do THEIR bidding. And the SCOTUS is getting ready to make it easier for the corporations to give you some more. You are bought and paid for! You sit on your lazy @sses like it is a game. Those who want to save lives should explain themselves to those who want to preserve the large salaries and profits of the insurance and pharmaceutical companies. Really??

    And the sad part is I don't even care anymore. I give up on you pieces of sorry sh!t. Stir up the ignorant into revolution for the corporate masters. I am done worrying about it.

    September 13, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  5. Ernie in LA

    You Dems have only your own party to blame for the Dead Health care proposal. You do not need the Repubs. If Obama and his advisers were sooo smart, they should have tackled this issue first and passed it quickly in spite of Ms Nasty Pukeoski.

    September 13, 2009 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  6. katiec

    Why, CNN, do two senators that say health care reform is dead, get the headlines? Probably because of your support for the republicans and any thing they want and do.
    How about a headline "many senators and the American people support Health Care Reform"?
    Oh my, the GOP probably would not like that!
    But, as you say, news we can trust. Give me a break.

    September 13, 2009 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  7. Connie, Indiana

    Maybe no one found the waste because they were not looking for it.. Maybe the only way to get health reform is to compromise to the point that it benefits no one but the insurance companies who's only concern is the bottom line..that is compromise we can all believe in. In other words people those who have insurance will continue to be milked by the insurance companies with absolutely no regard to those who don't have insurance...Whaat I don't understand why when the President is trying to help everyone in regards to insurance it is a no-no,but let a President start wars with billion $ price tags and these same people sit quietly by and say nothing...

    September 13, 2009 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  8. Proud Boulder Liberal

    What can you expect when corporations continue to run Washington

    and continue to control the thinking of a significant portion of an

    increasingly uneducated nation?

    September 13, 2009 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  9. Deuce

    Not quite. But it in in Intensive-Care, costing the nation any savings..

    September 13, 2009 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  10. Proud Boulder Liberal

    What can you expect when corporations continue to run Washington

    and continue to control the thinking of a significant portion of an

    increasingly uneducated nation?

    Get serious Congress! Get serious!

    September 13, 2009 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  11. Fan of Common Sense

    Let's hope so. We have got the best healthcare system in the world. The only problem is the costs are too high because 1) there is not enough competition (like allowing insurance to be sold across state lines ect.) and 2) the trial lawyer lobby will not allow the corrupt power-hungry democrats to change the law to curb the number of frivulous lawsuits and outrageous settlements that make healthcare expensive for the rest of us. If we would just fix these two things, the system would be fine. SOCIALISM IS NOT THE ANSWER!

    September 13, 2009 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  12. S M R

    These Senators must have received their bribe money from the Special Interest Group. SO UNAMERICAN

    September 13, 2009 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  13. No Hillary = No Obama

    Obama will have no one but himself to blame when his grandiose health reforms go no where. What President comes into office & in less than 8 months sinks the country into a deeper deficit while projecting an even deeper deficit years down the road due to his own programs? This guy has been blinded by his own reflection. As you will recall, the day he was sworn in, the Refecting Pool in D.C, was frozen over – and that will be the metaphor for his whole Presidency – fozen.

    September 13, 2009 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  14. tony

    The House health care bill is more alive than the Senate bill, because the Senate bill has yet to be born. Write your bill, Senators, or just shut up.

    September 13, 2009 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  15. Post always rejected by CNN

    It better not be or the blue dogs will pay for it....of course the republicans would be filled with glee that means the money will still flow into big Pharma and their campaign donations from them would continue.

    But I don't think it is dead. I think the republicans and the blue dogs are only hoping it is...And they think the pitful bunch of people who showed up yesterday was a sampling...wait til the real Americans flood DC and sweep republicans and blue dogs out of office.

    September 13, 2009 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  16. Deuce

    Forget Health care. How is Barack Obama going to deal with, a Teachers strike? It is coming!!!

    September 13, 2009 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  17. Kaymich

    It's been dead for a couple of weeks now. The compromise bill won't pass, either. There's no way the two sides will ever find something they both can agree on. There will be NO health care reform during this presidential term.

    Best they can do is put it aside and wait until the next chance in another ten years or so.

    September 13, 2009 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  18. Wow

    Kent ( bought and paid for by the insurance companies) Conrad and Lindsey( still bitter because my friend lost, and SC resident) Graham should get over it. Conrad should remember that Barack Obama won the election in November.

    This doing too much too fast business is a JOKE. Since when is 60+ years too fast? Only in Congress. We should vote both their butts out of office. Along with Max Baucus, John Mccain, Jon Kyl, Eric Cantor, John Boehner and Mitch Mcconnell. USELESS, the whole lot of them.

    September 13, 2009 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  19. PALIN/BACHMANN 2012!!!

    Another victory for Republicans and real Americans. Illegal aliens should have to buy insurance from private insurance companies or stand in line at the ER room just like everyone else.

    September 13, 2009 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  20. S M R

    Big Business shouldn't have such a big hold on AMERICA.

    September 13, 2009 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  21. annie s

    Um, duh PALIN/BACHMANN 2012!!!, have you read the House bill? It specifically excludes people who are not legal residents from receiving any Federal dollars for health care. Currently, of course, thanks to the kindness of Ronald Reagan, illegals CAN be treated in emergency rooms at taxpayer expense.

    September 13, 2009 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  22. Tony from Michigan

    The only question is how much money from corporations did all politicians of both parties get? Also, was it worth it?

    September 13, 2009 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  23. Tony from Michigan

    Forgot....Welcome to the Corporate States of America!

    September 13, 2009 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  24. Great Hope

    Senator Kent Conrad is far too quick to concede things. I can't even say that it's for a bipartisan bill because the Republicans aren't going to vote for ANY health care bill. If he doesn't realize that, he's not paying attention. That could be why he's adding so many sweeteners.

    Give it up. The GOP wont' cooperate. Did you learn nothing from the Stimulus bill?

    September 13, 2009 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  25. Lee

    If something happens, it is because God allows it and not Obama's "will or wisdom or logic." It is simple, Obama is not... all-knowing and all-wise, he is a mere limited and imperfect and sinful created biengs just like the rest of us, while the Creator God is all-,ighty and omnipotent. God is still in control and still on His throne, for thousands of years.

    September 13, 2009 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
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