December 4th, 2009
06:38 PM ET
6 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. Jerry

    Sens. Lincoln & Lieberman:

    I have three children whose disabilities make it difficult to keep them insured.

    Your grandstanding to get your face time on CNN is jeopardizing their care.

    You have publicly supported (NOT government-run; that is a scare tactic misnomer) health care yourselves, so stop being hypocrites.

    Stop holding my children hostage for your political ransom.

    Do your jobs, or else take your nameplates off the door and go home.

    December 4, 2009 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  2. Beverly in NC

    There will be NO compromise on the healthcare public option because it is the most critical component of real reform.

    Until the insurance companies are forced to compete for our business, their abuses of the American People will never stop.

    Blanche Lincoln should take a look at her poll numbers in her own state. She is running last in a line-up of 9 candidiates who want her Senate seat. Polls done in Arkansas also show the vast majority of people in that state and for a strong public option. Lincoln is totally out of touch with her constituents and regardless of healthcare will never hold public office again.

    What more is there to say about the liar Lieberman? He is a traitor to the American people and also to his constituents who also overwhemingly want a strong public option.

    I hope both of these idiots are enjoying their insurance company bribe money and it is worth losing their Senate seat for. These two will be remembered for their stupidity, corruption, and traitorous actions to the American People.

    If these two fools are so against goverment programs, then why are they both still using their GOVERNMENT-RUN HEALTHCARE PLAN? Have they let Social Security know they want to be taken off that government plan as well? Such hypocrites!

    December 4, 2009 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  3. mjm

    "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 money grows on trees and we can just pick it and pay for anything we want like a trillion dollar public option and still have money roads and schools and national defense!

    December 4, 2009 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  4. Mendemoi

    This is a payback for Democrats for tolerating Liberman who has always demonstrated to be with Republicans more than Democrats. The people of Connecticut rejected him in the primaries, then all of a sudden Democratic big wigs bound together to save him. So now he is sticking it to Democrats for their stupidity. next time I hope they will wisen up to dump thids Republican traitor. TAKE HIS CHAIRMANSHIP NOW!!!!

    December 4, 2009 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  5. terry,va

    There is no compromise on this issue. Forget it as well as coverage for abortion and illegal aliens.

    December 4, 2009 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  6. Chipster

    Sen. Lincoln and Sen. Lieberman seem to have no problem with the public option that provides healthcare to them and their families!

    I suggest that they and all Senators purchase their own healthcare until they're willing to offer an option for those who cannot afford the outrageous private insurance premiums.

    They certainly don't support mandating employers to provide health coverage so why should taxpayers be required to provide it for them?

    December 4, 2009 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  7. WrongKindofChange

    Maybe they aren't offering enough money for their votes.

    December 4, 2009 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  8. Anonymous

    Harry Reid, why are you wasting your time! Go through reconcliation and pass this bill with just 51 votes.. Forget working with these clowns Liberman and Lincoln, they are just as bad as the right wings wanting to kill this bill.

    In the end i think Harry Reid will get fed up and go through the reconciliation process and pass with 51 votes.. Liberman is a sell out and a joke as is lincoln

    December 4, 2009 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  9. Minnesotan

    Then obviously, Lincoln and Lieberman hate Americans. Otherwise, they'd realize that without a Public Option, the bill is nothing more than a giveaway to Big Insurance, Big HMO's, Big Lobbyists, and Crooked Republicans. We like to call their kind: Skank.

    December 4, 2009 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  10. bob jones

    I think the public option should be paid for with a heavy tax on tobacco, alcohol, and junkfood. Most people without insurance most likely do one or more of these things heavily. Why should our tax dollars go to people that eat themselves into an obese state, or a person who smokes 3 packs a day?

    December 4, 2009 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  11. Hillbillicus

    If President Obama had been allowed to follow what he first proposed during the campaign then none of this mess would be happening. Remember when he first stated that he was going to cover all childern first but was forced by Hillary Clinton and rest of the Progressive wing of the party to shift to Universal Health Care. It might have gotten him elected but I don't believe anyone would have had a problem with insuring all of the nation's children. This "We have to have it all and we have to have it now" attitude is what's going to kill this bill. Bits and pieces folks.. Independents like myself would probably still be in your corner. But instead what we have is a gigantic re-distribution of middle class income to be equally given out to people that have absolutely no impetus to work. I have worked hard all of my 50+ years to have what I do and don't mind at all helping out less fortunate people. I do mind someone forcibly taking money I have earned and giving to those who refuse to remove their lips from the government teat.

    December 4, 2009 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  12. paul oregon

    as i have told the person on the phone from the dnc that the reason that i have quit donating money. is that the money that i would have donated is going to be used to do everything in my power to to see that any dem. that votes against the health care opition. will be used to make sure they are not re-elecated.

    December 4, 2009 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  13. Liberal in Nebraska

    ThinkAgain @ 6:55 p.m.: You hit the nail on the head. Nothing but a bunch of hypocrits!

    I can't believe anyone still has the audacity to call this "socialized medicine" or a "government takeover of health care". Obviously they don't know the definition of those terms and are just hearing those worn out sound bytes from the right wing noise machine.

    And another thing, the majority of American's still want reform. Stop making up numbers that show otherwise. Everyone, including you naysayers, knows the truth, I just wish it was real reform (single-payer: the TRUE government takeover).

    December 4, 2009 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  14. Marcus Greensboro, NC

    If Lieberman is the hold up and this bill does not pass because of him I hope is up for re-election in 2010. You all better make sure he does not get re-elected. He must go, and I am tired of him getting in the way of anything positive that comes forth.

    December 4, 2009 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  15. Albo58

    The public option is a budget-busting, rationed care sentence for the American public that deserves so much better! The Dimrats need to be stopped at all costs!

    December 4, 2009 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  16. happylady2

    The majority of the AMERICAN PEOPLE, ie... the REAL Americans (as the neo cons like to erroneously call themselves) are in favor of a strong public option.

    December 4, 2009 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  17. Reason

    If there is no robust public, democrats will loose elections as Clinton predicted. shame on democrats for their compromises!!!

    December 4, 2009 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  18. Jeffery Meaux, Sr.

    Who are the 40 million who are uninsured and underinsured? I have not heard an answer to that question. Do little children and handicapped make up the 40 million or are you counting the deadbeats and illegal immigrants? I and millions of Americans are against a government health care program for the 40 or 46 million people who are unensured or underinsured until that question is answered.

    December 4, 2009 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  19. J.C. - Independent 4 Public Option

    Public Option is not the same as Medicaid. Subscribers have to pay to participate.

    CT is the insurance central. Senator Lieberman is under lots of pressure. He is also on Medicare, which is a government-run government-paid health care system. I wonder what his doctors have done to him for him to be so anti-government run health care system.

    Public Option is the best tool to revive our economy in which small businesses can create jobs and afford health care for their employees. Small businesses in Massachusetts appreciate what Gov. Romney has done for them.

    December 4, 2009 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  20. Michael

    Perhaps if Ms Lincoln or someone in her family were informed they'd lost their insurance or had a company tell them that because of some bogus pre-existing condition she was on her own....maybe then she would wake up. These people are amazing- I hope she finds the Primary in her State very difficult with a Progressive candidate who really cares about the PEOPLE she supposedly represents!

    December 4, 2009 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  21. Anthony

    Hurray for you ThinkAgain! Like you I think those bozos that don't want a robut public option in the Health Care Bill must start getting real! Get off the rolls of "socialized government" and take care of your yourself entirely with the taxes that you pay...perhaps, then public services will not look to bad. Ha?

    December 4, 2009 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  22. Tubby The Tuba Texas

    The polls I've seen conducted state that 55% of the electorate wants the Public Option! So why are our congress people trying to vote against it. It time to throw out the people who don't for majority rule.

    December 4, 2009 11:11 pm at 11:11 pm |
  23. Independent Lilarose, Bandon, Oregon

    These low-life "senators" don't give a tinker's dang about the rest of us. They only care about their own insurance coverage.

    I think ALL US senators should lose any insurance coverage they have if they are unable to come up with a plan acceptable to the rest of us!

    December 4, 2009 11:14 pm at 11:14 pm |
  24. hmmmmm

    thinkagain you should think again.. most polls show little support for public option. it's obvious no healthcare bill will pass. never was.

    typical politics at its best. Appear to do something when in reality do nothing but set the tone for next election. dems will cry that we need to vote out the repubs so that they can finish what they promised. the repubs will scream gotta vote out the dems look they are going to bring yet more govt programs. politics have become just a lot of posturing and little real actions. If we really was going to "fix" healthcare it would of started with congress working on legislation that actually could pass. the best way to fix healthcare woulda been to create an atmosphere condusive for businesses to create good jobs and thus healthcare. Instead we have created an environment that now has many unknown future costs to be forced on employers. Way to go congress. JOB WELL DONE!!!!

    December 4, 2009 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  25. That one guy

    There are no polls that show Americans in favor of a public option, stop saying there is. Get your facts strait! And to the guy that says start off small, what a great idea. To bad the crazy left can't understand it. They want the government to take care of them. They need to go out and get a job like the rest of us, and get off the welfare.

    December 5, 2009 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
1 2 3