WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Republican National Committee will target a
handful of centrist Democrats on Monday with a new Web video and series of
conference calls criticizing the Democrats for voting to allow debate to begin
on health care reform.
The 60-second video, which will be e-mailed to more than 5 million
people, singles out Sens. Evan Bayh of Indiana, Byron Dorgan of North Dakota,
Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Ben Nelson of
Nebraska, as well as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, according to
an advance copy of the video provided to CNN.
"Rolled by pressure from Barack Obama and Harry Reid, they voted to move
forward a government-run health care bill our nation does not want and can't
afford," an announcer says before ticking off criticism of each lawmaker.
Reid persuaded all 58 Democrats and the two independent senators who
align themselves with the Democrats to vote Saturday evening in favor of
allowing debate on the Democratic health care bill to move forward.
Washington (CNN) - Amid conflicting and heated rhetoric, a political pragmatism began to emerge Sunday as senators prepared for a debate on a sweeping Democratic health care bill.
Senate Democrats barely won a vote Saturday night to open debate on the 2,074-page bill. The debate on amending the proposal is expected to last for weeks and won't begin until after Thanksgiving.
Some legislators got a head start Sunday, reciting well-honed arguments for and against the bill and offering perspectives on the political realities facing Congress.
Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the chamber's second-ranking Democrat, acknowledged he was open to changing the bill's controversial government-run public health insurance option favored by the left.
The debate that divided the Senate along sharply partisan lines Saturday night carried over into a crackling Sunday conversation about health care policy and politics.
“Yes,” was freshman Colorado Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet’s short answer when asked if, at the end of the Senate debate, he would vote in favor of comprehensive health care reform even if he had compelling evidence that such a vote would cost him his seat in next year’s midterm elections.
That was one of the many glimpses at the raw politics of health care reform. The tough policy divides are many too, and with all the partisan barbs back and forth also came some informative exchanges about the pros and cons of the bills as they now stand, and a number of ideas about how senators of both parties believe their chamber’s version can be improved. We’ll touch on a few here, but also suggest following the links to the Sunday transcripts to get a more comprehensive look.
After health care, some sound of note on Afghanistan – both the president’s pending decision on sending more troops and new proposals from some congressional Democrats to impose a new “war tax” to pay for military operations overseas.
First, though, health care gets the bulk of our Sound of Sunday showcase:
After telling CNN Chief National Correspondent John King that she does not support the health care reform bill crafted by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Republican Senate hopeful Carly Fiorina took on President Obama over his top domestic agenda item during the first year of his administration.
“If you listen to what the President Obama said about this health care proposal, even he agreed with me. He said he wouldn’t sign into law a bill that increased the deficit. He said he wouldn’t sign into law a bill that increased the cost of health care. If this bill goes through, President Obama will have to eat his words or break his promise.”
Depending on what time frame is used to analyze the costs and revenues associated with the bill, Republicans and Democrats dispute whether the Reid bill is deficit-neutral. And Fiorina’s assertion that the Reid bill would increase health care costs is the criticism often leveled by conservatives against the new taxes that would be levied in order to pay for some of the bill’s costs, and to an analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office which found that premiums in the public health insurance option would be higher than average because people taking advantage of the public option would be sicker than the rest of the population.
“I agree with the goals of health care reform,” Fiorina also told King. “What I strenuously disagree with is [the idea] that this bill, or the one that made it through the House, solves the problem in any way.”
Fiorina, a breast cancer survivor, also took issue with new recommendations from an independent task force as to when and how often women should get mammograms.
Washington (CNN) – A freshman Democratic senator said Sunday that he will support his party’s efforts to pass health care reform legislation even if that means losing his seat in next year’s midterm elections.
“If you get to the final point and you are a critical vote for health care reform and every piece of evidence tells you if you support the bill you will lose your job, would you cast the vote and lose your job?” CNN’s John King asked Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado on Sunday’s State of the Union.
“Yes,” Bennet bluntly and simply replied.
Bennet was appointed by Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter to replace Sen. Ken Salazar, who stepped down from the Senate to serve as President Obama’s Interior Secretary. Bennet, who was superintendent of the Denver public school system prior to his appointment, will have to seek election to the seat for the first time in 2010.
Related: West is tough terrain for Democrats
Washington (CNN) - Rhode Island's top Roman Catholic leader has asked state congressman Patrick Kennedy to stop taking communion over his support for abortion rights, the diocese said Sunday.
In a statement issued Sunday, Providence Bishop Thomas Tobin said he told Kennedy in February 2007 that it would be "inappropriate" for him to continue receiving the fundamental Catholic sacrament, "and I now ask respectfully that you refrain from doing so."
Kennedy is the son of the late Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy and scion of the most prominent Catholic family in modern U.S. politics.
The Roman Catholic church strongly opposes abortion, which has been legal across the United States since 1973. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops lobbied for tight restrictions on federal funding of abortion in the health-care bill the House of Representatives passed earlier this month.
Updated: 2:01 p.m.
“We feel that we ought to go step-by-step,” Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union.
McConnell added that Republicans don’t think trying to enact comprehensive, systemic changes to the health care system is a good idea in tough economic times.
“[The Reid] bill is a job killer,” the Senate Minority Leader also told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King.
McConnell added that small business owners are not likely, in his view, to hire new employees in an environment of higher taxes imposed by Democratic health care reform plans and the expiration in 2011 of tax cuts passed early during the previous administration.
“The costs of adding additional employees will be greatly exacerbated by the steps [Democrats are] taking. This is the wrong direction to go,” McConnell also told King.
Notwithstanding the unity Democrats showed on Saturday night in getting the Reid bill to the floor for debate, McConnell suggested Sunday that the Democratic caucus could fracture under pressure from voters.
Washington (CNN) – A liberal Senate Democrat said Sunday that he thinks four key moderate members of the Senate Democratic Caucus will ultimately support Democratic efforts to pass a health care reform bill.
Composed of 58 Democrats and two Independents who caucus with the Democrats, the Senate Democratic Caucus potentially has the 60 votes necessary to break a Republican filibuster of the health care reform bill crafted by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. But Democratic Sens. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana along with Democrat-turned-Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut have all expressed substantive concerns about various provisions of the bill crafted by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and now set for debate before the Senate. Lincoln, Landrieu, and Lieberman have also said they do not want a public health insurance option in the final bill while Nelson has raised concerns about coverage for abortion and other issues.
On Sunday’s State of the Union, Ohio Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown said he thought all four would ultimately back the Democratic bill.
“I think, in the end, I don’t want four Democratic senators dictating to the other 56 of us and to the country, when the public option has this much support, that it’s not going to be in [the final bill],” Brown told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King.
“But in the end,” Brown added, “I think that all four of our colleagues survey this – look at this bill in the end and say – I don’t think they want to be on the wrong side of history. I don’t think they want to go back and say, you know, on a procedural vote, I killed the most important bill of my political career. I don’t think they want to be there on that. So, I think in the end, we get them.”