December 4th, 2009
06:38 PM ET
9 months ago

Democrats find compromise on public option elusive

Democrats find compromise on public option elusive.
Democrats find compromise on public option elusive.

Washington (CNN) – As senators prepared for a rare weekend session to continue debate on health care, evidence of the Democratic leadership's biggest challenge was on display: two senators whose votes are key to passing a bill said they have yet to see a compromise they can support on the most contentious issue - the public option.

"There are a lot of discussions going on and I'm going to work hard to see if there isn't somewhere to be in terms of a compromise, but I haven't seen it yet," said Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Arkansas, who made a rare appearance before the cameras to push an amendment on another issue.

"I have been very clear, I don't support a public option that is government run or government funded, that puts the taxpayers at risk in the long run," added Lincoln, who is facing a tough re-election battle next year.

In a separate appearance, Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Connecticut, was less open to compromise, saying he won't be satisfied until the public option is stripped entirely from the health care bill.


"I think the better political compromise is to get the public option out of there and do the rest that's good," said Lieberman, a former Democrat who is still counted as a member of the Senate Democratic Caucus. Lieberman, like Lincoln, supports much of the Democrats' enormous health care bill.

Lincoln and Lieberman, along with Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana, and Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Nebraska, all oppose a public option, but they are four votes Democratic leaders would likely need to reach the 60 vote threshold to pass a health care bill.
Although Democratic leadership sources think they could afford to lose one of these Democrats, if they are able to secure the support of Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, who has also been open to compromise.

While the Senate has been debating and voting on amendments, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, has been working behind the scenes with key senators and White House officials brainstorming and negotiating on a public option.

Sen. Tom Carper, D-Delaware, has been floating one idea for a government run health care option to be offered state by state. States would offer a public option only if they do not have other affordable coverage through existing plans.

But Lieberman rejected that idea. Lincoln would only say that she is "looking at everything."

"I'm going to judge it based on whether there are long term risks to the taxpayers and whether it's government funded and government run," said Lincoln.

Complicating work towards compromise with conservative Democrats is the fact that several liberal Democrats are reluctant to vote for a health care bill that doesn't have a public option. Many consider what's in the bill – a government run insurance option allowing states to opt out – compromise enough.

Much of the work towards finding that delicate middle ground has been going on behind closed doors of the Democratic leader's office.

Democratic leadership sources say Reid is hoping to a find compromise proposal by sometime next week, and part of the reason that he is holding a weekend Senate session is to keep senators in town, and keep negotiations going.


Filed under: Health care • Senate
soundoff (51 Responses)
  1. ThinkAgain

    OK, Blanche and Joe, put your money where your mouths are:

    Give up YOUR government-run, government-funded health care. While you're at it, take all your relatives and friends off the rolls, too.

    No Medicare for you; not now, not ever.

    While you're at it, stop using public services of all kinds: the interstate highway system, police, fire, rescue, libraries, schools...

    Oh, and spit on all those government-run, government-funded military personnel, while you're at it, too.

    Because your logic of not supporting health care reform because it's "government-run, government-funded" is just as idiotic!

    Grow a backbone, both of you ladies, and do what's right for America – the majority of whom WANT A ROBUST PUBLIC OPTION!!!!

    December 4, 2009 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  2. Tony T

    Its looking better and better for the USA. total gridlock on the poorest bill ever written. KILL THE BILL and start all over with small, one topic bills that are easily understood and not chock full of liberal special interest pork. 2000+ page bills are absurd, no normal thinking person can ever think these are good things. Thank you to the 4 Dems that aren't marching in lock step. And a BIG THANK YOU to the Repubs for protecting us for socialized medicine. Hold on for another 11 months, and the Dems will be voted out then have to start doing what Americans want, not what the looney liberal left wants.

    December 4, 2009 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  3. mjm

    Great....states can opt out of the public option but we can't opt out of the taxes. Those libs really know how to compromise.
    The entire bill needs to be scrapped. Rasmussen poll showed 72% do not want a public option.

    And don't say 45000 die w/o insurance. This bill only covers 96% at most. More than 45000 will remain uninsured. If I have no insurance and I get hit by a bus, what killed me? No insurance or the bus?

    December 4, 2009 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  4. Party Purity will never bring Political Power!

    2 Senators will stop 30 million people from access to health care and thereby will sanction the deaths of 45,000 Americans every year.

    I would not want to be in either of your shoes and have to explain that logic on Judgment Day.

    December 4, 2009 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  5. mjm

    "Give up YOUR government-run, government-funded health care"

    "No Medicare for you; not now, not ever. "

    Libs don't seem to get the fact that Medicare goes broke in less than 10 years. No Medicare for you, not now, not ever.

    And they sure as hell can't have Medicare Advantage after this.

    December 4, 2009 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  6. Doyle Wiley, MI

    For those of you against the public option. I guess you're ok with the present system where Insurance companies insure the most healthiest, and avoid those that are truly sick.

    Health care should not be a for profit business. Although we have a "separation of Church and State", we shouldn't have a "separation of Morals and State".

    December 4, 2009 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  7. Right wingnuts are the darlings of dementia

    The crazy right wingnuts have almost destroyed the country, and are hoping to take it to the brink again. With the help of the health insurance industry and Fox extreme media, they have waged war on the American people.

    The scary part is that they think that the 10% of the population that they represent is a majority.

    December 4, 2009 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  8. Hammerer

    Give her $300 million and she will fall in line.

    December 4, 2009 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  9. C. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    Republicans are desperate for a leader and looks like Cheney and Palin are next in line.

    December 4, 2009 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  10. Mlhall

    Joe Lieberman, I wish I could strip you just as you want to strip the public option from the health care. I bet you got all your health care you sorry piece of trash. The Dem Party gave you too much when they let you stay in the party after the sorry way you talk about the President while he was campaigning.

    December 4, 2009 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  11. Mike Dallas

    Am I the only one that finds it ironic that a Senator with a Jewish background, is now willing to stand by and allow 45,000 Americans to die every year and not do a thing to stop it?

    December 4, 2009 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  12. ThinkAgain

    Medicare funding is easy to fix:

    – Raise taxes on the wealthiest from the current highest rate of 36% back up to 39%, which is what they paid under Reagan.

    – Go after all the off-shore accounts that the wealthy use to hide their income and make them pay back taxes.

    – Eliminate the FICA tax cap on income above $90,000. This would generate a huge source of funds. (Right now, no FICA is paid on individual income above $90,000.)

    The wealthy can certainly afford it. After all, it's the least they can do for the country that has given them the opportunity to create their wealth in the first place.

    December 4, 2009 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  13. Ruggy

    I am amazed that a country as powerful as the US and so courageous in all of its accomplishments could be so naive to rational thinking. I was appalled when I heard elected representatives announced that the US has the best health care in the world. Come on people are you nuts? Cross the border north of the USA and sample our health care. The biggest challenge is abuse by people who runs to the doctor for issues they would not have if they were paying for it directly. But the way forward for develop countries is Universal health care then supporting developing countries to offer the same to their people. I support the Republicans views of reduce spending but there is no way a country like America should be giving billions away to developing countries annually and 30 million of its citizen doesn't have health care. Totally unacceptable, charity begins at home and it doesn't matter what your issues are with those who doesn't have or can afford health care take care of them first before giving billions to other countries some of which is use to support terrorists who kill or young men and women in the global fight on terror. Is it unfair that I have the same access to health care as the Prime Minister does?.... Come on America universal health care is not the main issue here its the large insurance companies with their monopoly and their support to the elected officials for reelections is the problem here. Reduce the influence of lobbing organization in the passage of laws and you will eliminate most of your problems. You are too great a country to be so backward on what most develop country view as a fundamental cornerstone of their existence.

    December 4, 2009 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  14. Jim

    Come, on, Senators, let's not get hung up over the details of a "public option" which will provide competitive insurance to relatively few people in the overall scheme of things!

    Look at the big picture. We Americas have at least three social programs that are mandatory, universal, and use a mixture of "public" and "private" options":
    1) K-12 education ( through public or private schools or home-schooling)
    2) Workers' compensation (mandatory for employees, insured through private or state-sponsored insurers or self-insured)
    3) Automobile insurance (usually mandatory, insured through private or state-sponsored assigned risk pools or facilities).

    A health care public option will support a competitive insurance marketplace – just as a public option does in many states for auto, flood, earthquake and workers compensation insunance.

    December 4, 2009 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  15. MarkieBee

    That's all right, I won't be completely satisfied until Joe Lieberman is stripped of his office.

    December 4, 2009 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  16. Annie, Atlanta

    So a significant percentage of our elected representatives in Congress think it's ok for insurance companies to gouge us, provide little or no coverage, with huge deductibles, deny us and drop us. This is OK!! Capitalism, alive and well.

    I e-mailed my Senators, asking them to please consider a public option to break the stranglehold monopolies insurance companies have. One responded, tellinig me it was his responsibility to protect the profits made by insurance companies. I kid you not. I replied: "what about the people you represent?" I haven't heard from him since. No surprise there.

    They have theirs' folks, and that's all that matters. Amazing.

    December 4, 2009 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  17. Annie, Atlanta

    @mjm – I think when they quote statistics like 45,000 people die yearly because of lack of health insurance they're speaking specifically about illness or disease that would have been prevented had these people had access to medical treatment.

    And by the way, I am about as anti-war as they come. I don't believe my tax dollars should fund war ever. However, that's not the case. I don't get to pick and choose. We operate on the basis of taking care of one another. At least that's what I thought.

    Maybe, just maybe, if Congress can come up with a way to curb medical costs, Medicare will survive past the 10 year limit you've placed on it. The people who are presently under the plan paid for it with their taxes all their lives. My Mom is one of them. It's the only insurance coverage she has, along with her Medicare supplement. There are no other options out there for the elderly, because the insurance companies would refuse them in a heartbeat. Not profitable, you know.

    December 4, 2009 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  18. George Guadiane - Austerlitz, NY

    "I think the better political compromise is to get the public option out of there and do the rest that's good," said Lieberman

    "Do it MY WAY is a better compromise" said Lieberman.

    The Public Option will be the most effective in helping employers make sure they have a healthy work force.

    The Public Option will INSURE that the HMO'S and Health "Insurance" companies COMPETE for clients. Since they are exempt from prosecution under anti-trust (RICO) act, they can consort and plan against the unhealthy and/or poor who clearly "don't deserve" to be a part of their insurance plans.

    The Public Option will provide health care for people who cannot afford any other form of insurance.

    When The Senate and Congress are willing to have the same options that they are planning for us, I will accept their decision. Till then, give us what WE WANT – A PUBLIC OPTION!

    December 4, 2009 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  19. Wakeup America

    I don't understand why so many people are so stuck on a gov run public option. Most americans believe they have good health care coverage right now and are happy with what they have. Costs need to go down yes but not by government takeover which is what public option creates.

    Competition competition competition! That is what will bring down health care costs and goverment tax breaks to smaller up and coming insurance companies that work with the governement to insure everyone can make that happen along with goverment sponsered health care plans that people can "choose" from with government tax breaks and goverment checks.

    In other words, if you are out of a job or low paying job and you can't afford or have no health care coverage you get a designated "amount" of $$ from government every year during tax time.. You go on-line to the government approved health plans and you pick the health care plan that suits you best from a list of different plans and companies that offer insurance... This is NO DIFFERENT than all other plans that offer aid to lower income americans or americans in tough times that need assistance.. This way everyone that does taxes can get health care coverage... (via private companies and insurers)... and everyone that works and has a good plan can keep their plan the way it has been... Increases competition via government sponsered programs and tax breaks to lower costs for everyone...

    There are other states that have good programs like this already in place that they could use as a model. Instead of bashing all that oppose public option LOOK at other proposals and quit crying..

    December 4, 2009 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  20. TCM

    "Party Purity," here's a novel idea,....get out and EARN your own healthcare, instead of sitting and waiting for a handout. It's the liberal mindset of entitlement that's broke the financial back of the country, specifically by minorities and illegals draining the system because it's easier to collect from uncle Sugar and not work...there's nothing wrong with the healthcare system in this country other than cost; availability and quality is the best in the world. You lazy libs just want it for FREE....yeah, Judgement Day's acomin;...2010 and 2012, you whine about 45,000 dead...that's too bad. Where's the number of millions saved by the fantastic healthcare in this nation? Stop drinking the obama-aide...and educate yourself on what the real impact will be of all the taxes needed to fund a lackadaisical and haphazard healthcare system run by the incompetents in Washington....Obama's administration cannot get a simple guest list right without screwing it up!

    December 4, 2009 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  21. TCM

    Tony T – right on the money

    December 4, 2009 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  22. Steven Richards

    I am self employed and have been so for 30 years, I am at an age where I will be too old to benefits from the proposed changes. I will be on Medicare in a couple of years. I should be the type of person who ought to be most concerned about the proposed health care and insurarance changes. To the contrary....I think we desparately need most of the reforms, including the public option.

    As is typical of those who are opposing the changes, these people fall into two general groups: 1. hard core conservatives and Republicans who will do anything to defeat any Obama or Democratic plan; 2. those who are uninformed and who are very susseptible to fear tactics used to scare people. Those who are opposed have targeted seniors and the non educated as people who can be convinced that the changes in health care are bad.

    It is obvious that without major changes to our badly broken health care system will lead to economic and social disaster. Health care in American is the most expensive in the world by 1.5 times any other country. We have somewhere near 40 million uninsured fellow citizens. And, the insurance companies ration helath care and are bilking everyone for profits that are a serious drain on our economy.

    Senator Lieberman is one of the most dispicable people serving in government. He is in the pocket of the big insurance companies based in Connecticut. He is one of the most santimonious and self righeous of all politicians.

    I am one of those who probably should be convinced by the negative arguments. But, I see the need for change to be in teh best interstes of our country.... country first !!!!!!!!!!! Unfortunately, this motto is not for those who will do anything to stop the legislation. Their hate and malavenance has blinded them and will prevent them from ever doing the right thing for America.

    Steven

    December 4, 2009 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  23. lila

    Offer Sen. Joe Lieberman more money for Israel and watch him flip. lol

    December 4, 2009 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  24. GI Joe

    A lot of these guys are Catholic.

    My family is NOT catholic and I don't want to be ruled by a man in Italy that wears more jewelry than Liz Taylor.

    They had better not vote themselves a raise in January. If they do, we can vote them out and start over from scratch.

    December 4, 2009 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  25. CNN afraid of a liberal post

    So who do these senators that say they can't support a public option that the PEOPLE in this country want. When they were elected to office did they get the notification that they were lord and master and that they could do what they wanted and the public that elected them be darned. Gee I wonder if they have ever read the constitution of this country. I wonder if they realize they are not the ones in charge I wonder if they realize they are public servants, elected to do the majority's will NOT THEIR OWN. Maybe we should all send them letters telling them that. How about a recall since their actions are not legal. Or maybe a recall, just get em the hades out of office, and put someone in who does what they are supposed to do. VOTE THE MAJORITY RULES.

    December 4, 2009 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
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