December 13th, 2009
12:30 PM ET
10 months ago

Senators stake out positions on health care compromise

Washington (CNN) - Senators crucial to Democrats' ambitions to pass a health care bill issued tough demands Sunday for a compromise they can support.

On the CBS program "Face the Nation," independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and moderate Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska cited necessary changes to the bill before they would vote for it.

Unanimous Republican opposition so far means Senate Democrats need all 60 votes in their caucus - which includes Lieberman - to pass the sweeping bill.

Lieberman outlined steps that he said would ensure the bill passes the Senate with support from Democrats and some Republicans.

Forget about the government-run public health insurance option, Lieberman said, as well as an expansion of Medicare to people as young as 55 that was proposed last week as part of a package of alternatives to the public option. Lieberman's other conditions were eliminating a government insurance program
focused on home health care for the disabled, and strengthening cost-containment provisions.

"We don't need to keep adding on to the back of this horse until the horse breaks down and we get nothing done," Lieberman said.

Nelson said he cannot support the Senate bill without tighter restrictions on federal funding for abortion. The Senate last week defeated an amendment proposed by Nelson and two other senators that would adopt the
tougher language contained in the House health care bill.

A compromise on the abortion language is possible, said Nelson, one of 10 Senate Democrats who negotiated in private last week to seek a compromise to the equally controversial public option.

The negotiators reached a tentative agreement on alternatives, including the Medicare expansion to people 55 and older who lack health insurance, as well as allowing private insurers to offer non-profit coverage under government supervision.

Their agreement, hailed by President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders as an important step forward, still must be analyzed for its total cost by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.

Several Democrats said Sunday they would decide on the compromise once they get the CBO analysis.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, also on CBS' "Face the Nation," signaled continuing opposition to any health care bill even if Democrats settle their differences.

"We do not believe this bill, this nearly 2,100-page monstrosity, is real health care reform," McConnell said.

Most Democrats support the public option as a non-profit competitor to private insurers that would expand coverage and bring down prices. Republicans and some moderate Democrats, along with the health insurance industry, oppose the public option, saying it would be a first step toward a government takeover of the entire health care system.

The fate of the health care bill could hinge on the votes of as few as one senator from each party. If Democrats can get 59 of their 60 caucus members to support the bill - for example, by changing the abortion language to secure Nelson's vote - they can focus on gaining the vote of moderate Republican Sen.
Olympia Snowe of Maine, who has signaled an openness to compromise.

If the Senate eventually passes a health care bill, its version will have to be merged by a conference committee with the House version passed last month. The final bill would then need approval from both chambers before going to Obama to be signed into law.

The president and Democratic leaders have said they want the bill completed this year. The Senate would need to finish its work this week to leave a realistic chance of meeting that schedule.


Filed under: Abortion • Health care • Senate
soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Death Panel Sarah

    When 2/3 of the people in Conn. want the public option, who IS Senator Lieberman siding with when he says he cannot support what the people WANT???

    THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY!!!!!

    All congressmen(and women) should be made to disclose from whom they get their 'donations' from!!! The insurance lobby is spending your premium payments defending their profits!!!

    December 13, 2009 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  2. Americans do not want Obamacare.......

    Read the polls......60-30 against Obamacare.....no socialized medicine and no socialism.......

    Obama is ONE and DONE.

    December 13, 2009 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  3. Fed Up

    Can you afford $550 per month to buy into Medicare, if you aren't working? Sounds like Cobra to me, which was also a government run insurance plan.

    December 13, 2009 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  4. Allan

    I'm sick and tired of Lieberman. He's a hypocrite like most of the rest of them, and is in the back pocket of the drug industry. If nothing is done to control the cost of health care, the fiscal situation of the US is just going to get worse, as anyone who can read should know by now.

    December 13, 2009 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  5. cited necessary changes to the bill before they would vote for it

    Gee, Lieberman wants more pork for his state

    really, bringing home the bacon is what he is about, sad

    but then again my state could use some of the other white meat, Boxer get to work

    December 13, 2009 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  6. Peter E

    Translation of Lieberman's demands: change nothing in the corporate health care system, and just give health insurance companies more money.
    And at the end of the day republicans will still oppose it. In fact, republicans would vote it down even if they were given the whole bill to write themselves, just so that they can claim that the 'democratic' congress and administration didn't accomplish anything.

    December 13, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  7. Mark

    The only real argument is what color the wrapping paper will be. This is a gift to the insurance companies plain and simple. This is profits over people and won't help the problem one iota.

    A government single payer is the only option that will work. Once everyone is in the same pool costs will be contained. The current plan continues to allow the insurance companies to subdivide the subscribers into smaller groups which allows the insurance companies to continue to raise prices. Harry Truman was right in the fifties and he's right now. Greed isn't good and won't provide for better health care.

    Health insurance via employers is economic slavery. Preexisting conditions enslave and bankrupt families everyday. There is no difference between republicans, blue dog democrats and Joe Lieberman. The bright spot is that one day they will face God, the real God, not the one they made up.

    December 13, 2009 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  8. Texas Longhorn talks Truth

    Trash it and set up a committee of equal proportions of Republicans and Democrats. Pu them in a room with no water or food. Lock the door. And tell them you do not waNt to hear from them until they have a simple plan under one hundred pages that takes care of every group of people except illegals in America then you'll let them out. I guarantee a feasible plan will come out of that room in less time than that. If it don't after three months seal the room and and put a plaque on the door. "This is what happens to a disfunctional congress hired by the people to do people's work. If they can not succeed then no one will miss them." This seems to be the biggest problem these egotistial idiots don't understand. They work for us. They're not movie idols nor can they walk on water. BUT THEY DANG SURE CAN BE VOTED OUT OF OFFICE. IN OTHERS WORDS.........FIRED....... GOT THAT BUD?

    December 13, 2009 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  9. Ken in NC

    I got to move to Conn. so I can vote against that clown, Senator Lieberman that represents the state of ETNA INSURANCE.

    December 13, 2009 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  10. Jimmy James

    Obama and Reid have given up on actual reform. They just want to pass something they can claim is reform regardless of the cost. This plan actually raises premiums. That defeats the purpose of letting the government get involved. The insurance industry already raises the prices on their own. They don't need the government to accelerate rate hikes.

    Pass real reform.
    No preexisting conditions bull
    No dropping people because they actually get sick
    No caps on benefit limits
    Tort reform

    December 13, 2009 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  11. Bev

    The ONLY thing that the Democrats are going to be able to get through--is a watered down version.

    This way, they will be able to claim "we passed a health care bill"--even though it will have NOTHING that they originally wanted to get through.

    Actually, they might not be able to get anything through--as they cannot get agreement from their own Party members!!!

    Based on all polls--the MAJORITY in the country--do NOT want this health care disaster shoved down their throats.

    And, fortunately-–if the Democrats are able to pass it-–the majority of the damage caused by this policy--will be able to be reversed--once the Republicans take over power/control again through the 2010 and 2012 elections!!!

    December 13, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  12. stickyideas

    Our Senators would rather let 45,000 Americans die each year than spend OUR tax dollars on a decent health care system.

    December 13, 2009 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  13. Hammerer

    More of the Dems policy– forgainst everything.

    December 13, 2009 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  14. Michigan Patriot

    Lieberman already has voted with the democrats in almost all the issues; now all he does is talk and talk, that he is not going to vote with them, but he will, just like Stupak did. They have lied before, why not this time..
    They are going to pass it promising this and that so they can have the votes....Public option is nonsense.....all it is a government take over..
    WAKE UP PEOPLE!! Voice your opinion, make sure you know if your representative voted for it, and get them out of office in 2010......

    December 13, 2009 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  15. annie s

    Gosh, thank you Senator Lieberman, you miserable corporate lackey. In other words, you're against reform. Period. Typical conservative – no argument about money for baseless wars but heaven forbid we do something that might help the American people.

    December 13, 2009 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  16. Insightful

    By virtue of his "hidden" agenda Joe Lieberman is one of the most unpatriotic Americans in congress. He'll deny THE PEOPLE HE WAS ELECTED TO SERVE while jockying for his foreign policy causes. Where were he, McConnel, and all the other obstructionists when wars were draining our economy and life's blood, or when Wall Street was crumbling due to the errant greed of a relatively small cadre of money grubbing deceivers and con men?

    We have to continue to expose these naysayers for who they really are and from whom they are taking their cues for their own self-interests.

    Also, be aware, they are tolling the bells – and we know for whom those bells toll – the American masses.

    December 13, 2009 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  17. paul oregon

    what else would one expect from 2 people that are on the insurance companys pay roll! DEMOCRATES ARE A JOKE !!!!!!!! i expect the repubs. to screw me . the dems. are like the key stone kops everyones going in separate directions. to think i voted dem. and donated to the dem. party. we need real reform now not in 2014 , public opition, or single payer system no benefit caps on polices. to bad the politicans dont think more abount the the people that elected them and less abount the insurance companys. in the mean time the repub. lead the dems. around like they have a ring in their nose. and contiues to make dems. look like fools

    December 13, 2009 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  18. freddie

    Joe, I consider myself a democrat and one who supports your ideas on health reform. You are on the right track and you should that the majority of Americans feel the same way. The current health bill needs more attention, we have waited this long, so take the time to do it right. Just because Obama want's it done by the time he gives the state of the union message is no reason to hurry.

    December 13, 2009 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |