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. jr

    what about the mortgages? can we deal with them first?

    September 13, 2009 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  2. Shirley Gravlin

    If it were not so disingenous, it would be almost laughable that those congressmen who are fighting so hard against a reform of the health care system would accept the excellent medical coverage that is provided for them and their families at the expense of the American people. More should be made of this fact. Then the people who are being manipulated for political purposes would realize that they were indeed being manipulated. Those Republicans who would like to cause the President to fail in this effort and any others should realize that if they are successful, they will take the whole country down with them. My grandma used to say that was cutting off your nose to spite your face. Wake up America!

    September 13, 2009 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  3. GI Joe

    Folks – it's Sunday – from Republican to Jr. Talker Don Lemon, it sucks. It turns into FOX on Sunday - trying to win Limbaugh's approval.

    September 13, 2009 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  4. MCD, SF, CA

    WHO are these people who keep claiming that we have the best health care in the world!?!? Have you done ANY research? Do you even have a clue or are you just parroting what you hear Rush and the others say? Do me a favor, please, and do an internet search on health care ranking in the world. You will find that the U.S. is no where near the top! Garbage in, garbage out. Use your brain and the resources at hand to get the real facts!

    September 13, 2009 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  5. Terry from West Texas

    The Republican leadership is playing Conservative voters like a harmonica. Big Insurance did not want a health care bill. They put a lot of money into blocking it. The Conservative leadership played their part by filling their naive followers' heads full of lying rubbish and mobilizing them. Off they marched to town hall meetings and tea parties to argue against better health care for themselves.

    Big Pharma, Big Hospital, and Big Insurance would much prefer higher health care costs. If they defeat this health care initiative, they will get exactly what they want. And we will have the opportunity to pay more for less, just like they want. Congratulations Conservative Voters, you have once again prevented the nation from solving an important problem.

    September 13, 2009 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  6. MCD, SF, CA

    Are you "anti" people aware that Blue Cross, in the middle of all this, just tried to raise their rates by... wait for it.... 56%!!!!! Don't believe me? Do an internet search... Blue Cross rate increase.

    Maybe you or your employer can afford health insurance right now but... how about a year from now or two years from now?????

    September 13, 2009 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  7. Nea

    LISTEN PEOPLE WHERE IS YOUR CONFIDENCE? We will get Health Care Reformed and it will be a good bill whether some like it or not because this is much needed, Yes the devil is mad about it and he is fighting with all he got. I have FAITH IN GOD first of all and i im confidence enough that this President will pass Health Care Reform MARK MY WORD!

    September 13, 2009 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  8. truthsayer

    Why are we listening to 2 senators on Fox news when the majority of congress is in favor of reform. CNN and the main stream media keeps cuddling tea baggers and right wing nutjobs

    September 13, 2009 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  9. truthsayer

    CNN is using sensationalist headlines to pander to Republicans

    September 13, 2009 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  10. scott

    The Tea Partiers are not racist, they are sore loser republicans who wanted the Bush era to go on forever. They can't live with the fact that us left wing progressive liberals beat em! Beat them fair and square.

    September 13, 2009 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  11. Mario, mtl, ca.

    For the gops it's always country club first

    September 13, 2009 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  12. sjsloan66

    if the fascists in the republican party cared about our country they would stop there just say no policy and get on with the business they were elected to do

    September 13, 2009 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  13. Steve851

    Universal health care is important, but only if it is done right. Today, it appears that the public option is dead (not just from this article but from all the Sunday shows). A good start. The next goals are to wipe out any limitation on copays and deductibles in the mandatory purchase of insurance being proposed. Ditto, any employer mandates since employer provided insurance has driven up the cost of health care tremendously. Then, in order to get this right, we need equitable funding. That means if you are in favor of universal health care, you are willing to pay your fair share in progressive taxes. No something for nothing or hide the ball here. Step up and commit your dollars to what you advocate. Otherwise, shut up!

    September 13, 2009 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  14. disgusted to

    as long as the fascists are in charge of the republican party nothing in our country will change greed and hatred are key to being a good republican but stupidity is the one thing any good republican must have

    September 13, 2009 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  15. Meka

    Just GET IT DONE! America, will not progress . . . if we can't do something as 'Simple As-Coming Together, To Accomplish the Goal'

    If we as Americans, Can't Work Together-To Solve This Issue . . . Just What Can We Tell ANYONE Else ?

    September 13, 2009 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  16. Susan

    And still they whine about illegal aliens (THEY ARE NOT COVERED!) and abortion (MAY be covered by a state, but not federally.) The animosity toward the President is astounding. This is not about health care. This is about Rush's wanting to bring down the administration; about Hannity and the birthers; about Beck and whatever nonsense he is crying about this week. Honestly, I wish people would grow up and think for themselves!

    September 13, 2009 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  17. J.C. - Independent & Insured

    "...including last week's unprecedented heckling of President Barack Obama in Congress."

    I did not vote for Obama, but Rep. Wilson shouldn't have heckled my president.

    September 13, 2009 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  18. haren

    The people who is talking about socialism, can they explain what is the role of insurance company in people's health care, what is their contribution to health care and in the first place why they are involved in health care business except to make 30% profit.
    congress pass the single payer bill.
    health care is not commodity to make money.
    People who watch Fox news and tea party guys should understand this simple logic if they have their own brain.

    September 13, 2009 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  19. smarter than a fifth grader

    lets put the hole health bill in writing so everyone understands it an know what they are getting for our money. after all what do they have to hid if its good for america. 90% of the people living in america dont understand any of the insurance forms an its time to stop stealing from us. lawyers with there eight year college that there momma payed for are the ones that put us all in a dont ask frame of mind. an then when you do ask they look at you like your dummer than a fifth grader. most of us can read an understand a fifth grade book so why are all these smart guys having trouble writing it. because they fear that if we all new what was going on for years will stop stealing from the lower than an eight year college grad. an without no remorse at all just keep busy count the money. all you educated people make me sick.

    September 13, 2009 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  20. Liberals are Hypocrites

    It SHOUD be dead. We have the finest healthcare system in the world!!!!!!!!!!!!

    And WE won't give it up that easily. Bank on it !!!!!!!!!!

    BTW, if you don't like it, you can always "flock" to Britain or Canada to get "the finest" care - right? Funny, how that isn't happening. In fact, it's just the opposite.

    There ARE some things that need to be fixed - but to scrap the whole thing for some minor tweaking is just plain old STUPID!

    But, then, Liberals are not generically endowed with "reason" - only with "passion" - at the expense of others, of course!!!!!!!!

    September 13, 2009 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  21. Steve (the real one)

    Be careful! In this picture Sen Harkin appears to be reaching for YOUR wallet! Its a liberal thing ya know!

    September 13, 2009 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  22. rev

    Republicans can't help but lie about everything, even which sock they put on first in the morning. Pathetic.

    September 13, 2009 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  23. MrBlueSky

    Ignore these two idiots! If there's not 60 votes in the Senate, then it will pass with 51 votes as a budget reconciliation. Nothing to see here folks... just get ready for health care reform!

    September 13, 2009 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  24. Down on the Bayou

    I say lets fire the whole bunch of them in Washington, and Impeech the rest.

    September 13, 2009 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  25. John

    That's the truth. We have Democrats in control of both houses of Congress and the Presidency, this health reform needs to pass with a public option. The people have voted.

    September 13, 2009 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
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