December 16th, 2009
01:38 PM ET
8 months ago

Key groups push for Senate health care bill

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Several influential organizations urged passage of health care legislation Wednesday in the face of growing liberal discontent with what many Democrats believe is now a watered down Senate bill.

Representatives of the AARP, Consumers Union and the Service Employees International Union, among others, pushed for quick Senate passage of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's sweeping $848 billion plan.

"Our organizations are here to say move the process forward," said Ron Pollack, head of the progressive group Families USA.

Reid's measure "has many important provisions that improve the availability and the quality of health care for Americans," said Consumers
Union's DeAnn Friedholm, which publishes the magazine Consumer Reports.

"We urge the Senate to move forward to keep working towards the many vital improvements not just in access, not just in cost, but also in quality and safety."


The new push came one day after former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean - a former presidential candidate and past head of the Democratic National Committee - ripped the Senate Democratic leadership's apparent decision to eliminate both a controversial government-run public health insurance option and a provision allowing 55- to 64-year-olds to buy into Medicare.

"This is essentially the collapse of health care reform in the United States Senate and honestly the best thing to do right now is kill the Senate
bill and go back to the House," Dean said in an interview with Vermont Public Radio posted on its Web site.

Liberal Democrats are increasingly angry with compromises that have been made in an effort to get the 60 votes needed to end Senate debate on the bill and proceed to a vote on final passage.

Unanimous Republican opposition to health care legislation so far means Senate Democrats need the backing of all 60 members of their caucus. Final Senate passage would require only a simple majority of 51 votes.

Most of the liberal anger has been focused on Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman. An independent who caucuses with the Democrats, Lieberman has been viewed as the main obstacle to the majority party's efforts to get the health care bill passed by the Senate before Christmas.

He threatened over the weekend to join a GOP filibuster if the bill contains either the public option or the Medicare expansion.

In an interview Tuesday with CNN, Lieberman said he was "moving very much in the direction of saying yes, pending just seeing what I've been told is happening with the bill."

Lieberman acknowledged he has angered some of his colleagues, but said he was acting on principle, not politics.

"I knew some of them were upset about positions I'd taken," Lieberman said. "But like each of them, I didn't get elected by telling my voters in
Connecticut that I would follow the majority of my caucus even if I thought on some things they were wrong. We each have to do what we think is right."

President Barack Obama met with Senate Democrats Tuesday and urged them to accept a compromise and pass the bill.

"The final bill won't include everything that everybody wants. No bill can do that," he said. "But what I told my former colleagues ... is that we
simply cannot allow differences over individual elements of this plan to prevent us from meeting our responsibility to solve a longstanding and urgent problem for the American people."

Obama insisted "any fair reading" of the Senate bill showed it meets the administration's criteria of lowering costs and expanding coverage while not adding to the federal deficit.

Democrats "may have to do what Mr. Lieberman wants" in order to pass the bill, Iowa Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin told CNN.

Lieberman supported letting older workers buy into Medicare in 2000, when he was the Democratic vice presidential candidate, and as recently as September in comments to a Connecticut newspaper. Now, he said both Monday and Tuesday, the country has huge deficits - as opposed to a budget surplus nine years ago - and Medicare is poised to run out of money in 2017.

The Medicare buy-in was part of a package of provisions announced by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid last week as an alternative to a public option, which lacked enough support among Democrats to break a GOP filibuster. Negotiated by a team of 10 Democratic senators - five liberal and five moderate - the compromise package had been hailed by Reid, Obama and others as an important step forward in the health care debate.

The package also would allow private insurers to offer non-profit health coverage overseen by the government. But many senators have reserved judgment on the compromise proposal until the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) provides its analysis of how much it costs.

The CBO estimate was expected to be completed as soon as Wednesday.

Another potential obstacle for Reid is moderate Democrat Ben Nelson of Nebraska, who said Sunday 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 tougher language on abortion funding contained in the House health care bill.

A compromise on the abortion language is possible, said Nelson, one of the 10 Senate Democrats who negotiated in private last week.

If the Senate eventually passes a health care bill, its version will have to be merged with the version the House of Representatives passed in November, which includes a public health insurance plan. The final bill would then need approval from both chambers before going to Obama to be signed into law.

Obama 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.

–CNN's Dana Bash contributed to this report


Filed under: Health care
soundoff (50 Responses)
  1. Tony in Maine

    Force a vote with the Medicare buy in and public option intact.

    Make Nelson, Lincoln and Landrieu demonstrate their perfidy by refusing to allow the majority of their party to prevail.

    Make Lieberman show how tight his ties are to his political contributors, the insurance industry.

    Force it out into the open.

    Then when the health insurance reform bill dies from lack of action, run continuous ads in their states with the names of real people who died that week as a result of their kowtowing to money. Ask if they went to the funerals. Ask if they have any regrets. Ask how they can call themselves servants of the people.

    December 16, 2009 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  2. Jane/Seattle

    NO, KILL IT! IF YOU CAN"T DO IT Right, DON'T DO IT! We need a Public Option for those of us that can't get a decent, livable wage from this Corporate-Run Country! Being forced to "buy" from these Healthcare Companies is Just More Robbery of the Taxpayers! And will they put the income thresholds the same as they did to Welfare families? Will they further impoverish the working poor? Probably, YES! And when you caan't afford this robbery, you'll be taxed and everyone wins except those who need the help the most! Disgusting!

    I have a theory that giving Lie-berman so much power was a calculated move to get this thing done! He takes center stage as things wind down AFTER the powerbrokers killed anything good for the People in this bill. Presto, Chango!, We are now forcedd to "buy" higher priced insurance. The lobbyists are happy, the political hacks are happy, but we, the American public, get to pay for our own "Screwing"! Probably did it all over their drugs of choice! Martini anyone? Manipulation IS the Name of this Game! Therein lies the true problem. The marriage of government and this corporatocracy needs a Divorce! Comprehensive election reform is our chief issue next to the fraud that is our current Congress! Obama Knows!

    December 16, 2009 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  3. If you want something ruined, put a republican in charge

    Is the GOP waiting until the number of uninsured doubles to 90 million before they become concerned?

    December 16, 2009 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  4. Pelosi's a see-you-en-tea

    THE FOLLOWING COMES FROM THE WEEKLY REPORT:
    White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel threatened Senator Nelson of Nebraska to close down the military Strategic Air Command (SAC )Base if he doesn't vote for healthcare reform. Senator Nelson has been voicing concern about the bill not guarenteeing that abortions will not be paid for with govt funds and contenplating voting against the bill.

    December 16, 2009 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  5. If you want something ruined, put a republican in charge

    When all is said and done, and with millions of dollars spent by the health insurance industry, and the lies and anti reform efforts of Fox and the worthless republicans, one has to ask, "Will the republicans and Fox blame the democrats if health reform fails?"

    If you answered, "Yes," you must be intelligent.

    December 16, 2009 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  6. S Callahan God help America!

    AARP needs to be some of the represenative person 'reading' the actual bill...I think once the read 'all' of it..they would have a different stance.....but then again...AARP makes money off a subsidy plan..so who knows.

    December 16, 2009 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  7. Randolph Carter. I'm no expert but...

    Sept. 3, 2003: The Hotline: “Lieberman: Calls for Health Care for Everyone”:

    “Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) on 9/2 unveiled his health care platform for the WH '04 campaign, "proposing a multifaceted plan under which he said no American would go without health insurance." His plan would "offer government-funded medical coverage aimed at filling all gaps between private plans and Medicare or Medicaid, at a projected cost of $53.4 billion over five years" . . . Lieberman "pledged" to offer "every American affordable health insurance from birth to age 25" as part of a $747B health care plan he unveiled to "counter" his WH '04 Dem rivals' plans.
    Lieberman said his plan would extend coverage to 31.6M "uninsured people within a decade–at less expense to the government than other Democratic candidates have proposed." He would create a "new universal health program called 'Medikids,' meant to guarantee coverage for the estimated 9 million children who are uninsured." Said Lieberman in his speech at an elementary school in Silver Spring, MD: "When I'm president, newborn babies won't go home just with a name and a birth certificate. All American children–rich or poor–will have health insurance that stays with them from the moment they're born, all the way to age 25" (Anderson, Los Angeles Times, 9/3).
    Lieberman would pay for his plan by repealing "some" of Pres. Bush's tax cuts . . .”

    Have a nice day!

    December 16, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  8. Sniffit

    Aaaaaand, here we go...the same people who were shouting it from the rooftops that AARP wasn't supporting the reform effort when Obama mispoke/spoke too soon will now be rattling off a list of talking-points about AARP being an ACORN-esque liberal outfit hellbent on destroying America.

    You know, the least yo uidiots could do is be consistent. Your autonomic criticism response to anything a Dem or Obama says or does and your "say anything" approach to doing it have you talking yourselves in circles and looking like petty, pantwetting morons.

    December 16, 2009 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  9. www.circleparkforum.com

    The Obama administration, Senate Democratic Majority Leader and other failed Senate Democrats are seriously mistaken if they think that the Progressive base will forgive them for this betrayal.

    President Obama declared, “Now that the legislation has gone from watered down reform to no reform at all, let’s get this done!”

    Audacious? Hopeful? Not.

    Now that there’s nothing of real reform left to concede to so-called moderate Democrats, the President wants everyone to know that he’s fired up and ready to go.

    Weak. Failures. Don't deserve their majorities.

    December 16, 2009 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  10. al in memphis

    Not one word of Republican input– is there not one good idea among them. Maybe they are too busy trying to see how to squeeze something negative out of expanding the availability of preventive health care.

    Whatever bill is passed will have some provision that is bound to fail, nothing is every 100% effective. That still does not mean people should be dying and losing life savings just to support the health care profit machine.

    December 16, 2009 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  11. Stan Toporowski

    Perhaps someone should remind the senators that there is already publicly funded high quality health care for certain groups in the country. In particular, CONVICTED CRIMINALS! In Canada, we believe that honest law abiding citizens should be entitled to health care that is at least as good as that we provide for our criminals. It ain't rocket science and I seriously doubt that the Repuiblican senators who oppose a public option have the best interests of their constituents in mind.

    December 16, 2009 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  12. Marion/Alabama

    Why AARP is behind this bill is beyond me,I just can not fanthom their reasoning. Take money from Medicare to start another government program,and they think this will help Seniors? How? The White House made deals with the Drug companies to not ask for lower drug prices if they support Obamacare,So now we can not get our cheaper drugs from a foreign supplier. I will not renew my membership in AARP ,just because they are bed with the SEIU Unions,... Maybe they feel they can sell a supplemental to cover the medicare cuts,that will still cost the Seniors more,so whose side is AARP on anyway?

    December 16, 2009 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  13. Hugo

    I want to thank all the libtards for all the great laughs and enjoyment you have brought me today. Your blog posts on the RNC are so freaking funny, they are predictable as sun follows darkness. Those awful GOPers, party of NO, Obstructionist nut jobs, etc., etc., etc. Oh yeah, and I almost forgot, they called social security socialism, civil rights, 45,000 die each year, blah, blah, blah, blah, blahhhhhhhh! But isn't your own bunch of polarized freaks up there in DC gumming up the works? They need no help from the Republicans, too much pork ruins the beans...... What's that new board Obama is creating? A tax review??????

    December 16, 2009 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  14. ICARE

    Lieberman voted for the 1 trillion dollar war in Iraq and is probably for the 1 trillion dollar war in Afghanistan. But he doesnt want to help his own people get healthcare.

    He needs to be stripped of his healthcare so he'll understand what it is like to not have any access. Why does he need insurance for?

    December 16, 2009 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  15. Matt

    Labor unions were needed a decade ago. Now they are destroying the economy of America–demanding too much for very little and forcing members to go along with bad policies.

    We live in a different era, were unions are obsolete. Don't support these money/power grabbing goofballs.

    December 16, 2009 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  16. sensible Cape Coral FL

    I disagree with those who claim that the Health Care bill will bankrupt the country. Just the opposite is true. We need a well educated, healthy work force to gain and retain out place in the world market. Absenteeism is nothing short of epidemic in our country. Only a strong, affordable Health Care bill can correct that. problem

    December 16, 2009 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  17. The Lonely Libertarian of Liverpool NY

    Oh there goes that Lobby group AARP. What a sham they are. Claiming to be representitives of the elderly, when in fact they are an insurance business selling secondary policies for the current government programs that fall short of covering our nation's retired.
    Well I quit this group back in August over their support of this multi trillion dollars boondoggle.
    I recommend every member of AARP to quit this orgaization as well. They have no interests in your well being, only the profits the will reap from this proposed law.

    December 16, 2009 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  18. LacrosseMom

    45,000 Americans die every year because they do not have healthcare!

    The number one reason for bankruptcy in our Nation is ...... healthcare costs!

    99% of ALL Americans (minus the top 1%) are one medical crisis away from bankruptcy!

    WE NEED HEALTHCARE NOW, AND A PUBLIC OPTION FOR COMPETITION!

    CAPITALISM = COMPETITION

    December 16, 2009 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  19. gt

    THE AARP are not to be trusted... they are a insurance company in sheeps clothing,,,,,there goal is to sell health insurance to there members ,,,,so there company executivies will make millions of dollars off of the elderly....

    December 16, 2009 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  20. All the news that's fit to omit

    Gutless over paid union hacks, AARP which represents less than 17 percent of the elderly of course they are for it, NEED to SIGN ANYTHING to make their god look good.

    AARP will benefit, NOT THE OLD FOLKS, but there fat cats that run it and the unions, well, the cowards are as usual bought and paid for.

    Funny how their "cadillac plans" are not included in this mess, oops, must have missed that on the news???

    Doctor and nurses and HOSPITALS are ON RECORD as saying they are against this bill as it will KILL ALL THREE parts of our health care components, good nurses and doctors have said THEY WILL LEAVE and the Mayo clinic has said they will LOSE MONEY and other hospitals will go out of business FACTS.

    Cost saving NOPE, everyone covered NOPE, WE NEED TO MAKE HISTORY ONLY – YUP.

    2010 is going to be a bloodbath, you LIBERALS HAVE NO IDEA.

    December 16, 2009 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  21. Franky, Land of Lincoln

    I doubt is gonna pass before Christmas, no chance it will. The Dems no need all 60 of their members in order to be partisan but be careful. If you do pass it(say for example), then the responsibility lies on them to make full commitments on the bill. Cause I'm telling you, the longer this drags, the easier it will be to get your sweet ass of your seat.

    I'm for Health Care, I don't mind but please, be specific, be linguistic and most importantly, be smart. Don't tell me is a 3 step process and boom, everything will be fine. I wish it can but there's no chance, no chance it will ever be like that. And I heard the elaborations of Health Care being compared to Medicare in the 60's. I admit, I don't know the full structure and context of how utterly similar they may be but I do know or heard that Medicare also dragged and took a long time. Was it Medicare? It was either that or Social Security. I'll cheat right now and look at my book.

    Maybe because I'm young and confused, maybe that's why I have mixed feelings about it. And I try to understand what the whole population may think. I mean, people do work and got their health insurance, you bet it will impact them as well. And I swear, if this bill has an amendment supporting abortion or funding it more, I'm gonna have the cartels shoot up Washington D.C...actually, I don't know the Cartels, :)

    Alright, let's do this Marines...

    December 16, 2009 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  22. aware

    Talk about fat Cats! Shame on AARP. :(

    December 16, 2009 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  23. Bob in Pa

    Well Mr. Pollack, I am here to say "Kill the Bill Now !"

    December 16, 2009 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  24. victim of democrat hypocrisy

    In other words, a bunch of fronts for the democratic party. Naturally SEIU supports it–most of their members are here illegally!

    And AARP's endorsement proves they support dems over their members, since hardly any seniors want this bill passed.

    Guess I need to cancel my Consumer Reports subscription, since they can't be trusted to be objective anymore.

    The American public gets it, why don't the dems? Why won't they work on bipartisan TRUE healthcare reform which includes tort reform?

    December 16, 2009 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  25. Bob in Pa

    Since when did the needs of the few out weigh the needs of the many ? Especially the needs of the many that are working and strive to maintain their self sufficiency.

    December 16, 2009 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
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