December 16th, 2009
01:38 PM ET
3 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. Christian Values

    Lieberman is pond scum. He is bought and paid for by the insurance companies. He is a sell out and a worthless pile of fungus infested flesh. He is by every definition, a traitor and a domestic terrorist.

    December 16, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  2. Patty in California

    People need to remember that the Senate bill and the House bill, once both pass, will be merged together.....we must pass this through the Senate so it can be worked on and adjusted. If it doesn't pass the Senate, that would suit the insurance companies most.

    December 16, 2009 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  3. phoenix86

    When labor unions support this, you know its bad.

    December 16, 2009 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  4. BillyBobTomRedcracker

    Too bad the Dems didn't learn from Traitor Joe during the last Presidential election. The guy is a liar and has misled his entire constituency back home in Connecticut. This pathetic excuse for a man does nothing but take up space and breathe air that could be better used by someone else.

    December 16, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  5. Real-Repub

    AARP is a huge retailer of services preying on the senior citizens in our society. They have much to gain by any health care mandates created by the Feds. All Unions have much to gain by any federally mandated health care as they can use the feds to continue to impose their mass extortion on business. As we move closer and closer to the socialist vision of an all encompassing nanny state, Unions will continue to applaud this huge increase in Government Spending accompanied by a huge tax increase which will end up putting the economy further and further into the dumper.

    December 16, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  6. Tim

    Go read the Obama tickers and notice how many are anti-Obama. Residents of the second home of the liberals, CNN, is questioning the One.

    How Ironic.

    How's the Change been treating you?

    December 16, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  7. Mack

    Have some patience. They'll get to it as soon as Lieberman returns from cashing his Insurance industry checks.

    December 16, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  8. mjm

    The special interest groups are pushing....good to know.

    AARP stands to make millions off this deal even though they're "non-profit" (wink wink). After Medicare coverage is cut, they will be right there to sell grandma insurance to cover the cut.

    Medicare costs $98/month for 80% coverage, AARP cost $118 for covering the remaining 20%.

    By all means, push forward with your disastrous bill regardless of what people want.

    December 16, 2009 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  9. TCM

    Amazing, aside from the lunatic fringe of the AARP, every other group mentioned, and also including Reid, are the most anti -American groups on the planet...right next to the Taliban. At least the Taliban are more honest; they don't hide it a bit that they want to destroy the American way. However, all these "Progressive," groups, and corrupt unions want nothing more than to create a slavery-socialist state, willing to cower down to the whims of Obama....what a sham the liberals have made of this once great nation.

    December 16, 2009 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  10. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    Let's see...

    the AARP will endorse anything as long as it gives so-called "senior citizens" a free ride at the expense of younger people.

    Consumers Union thinks Americans are too stupid to make their own decisions about much of anything and is always yelling "More government! We need more government to protect stupid citizens from themselves!"

    SEIU consists mostly of people on the lowest economic rungs whose principal motivation is to screw anyone and everyone who makes more money than they do.

    Families USA has been pushing socialised medicine for a quarter of a century.

    Saying that these groups support health care welfare is about as surprising as saying the Communist Party supports confiscating all the private wealth in the country. Duh...

    Every one of those organisations is fundamentally irresponsible. They all support achieving their objectives regardless of the cost, mostly because one of their objectives is always to make sure that someone else is stuck with paying those costs.

    December 16, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  11. Enough! Reconcilliation NOW.

    The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has just released statics that 20% (almost 60 million) of Americans lost their health insurance since Jan. 2008! We need health insurance reform and we need it now!

    December 16, 2009 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  12. AJ

    This is a bad bill no matter which side of the political spectrum you sit. The current bill is nothing but a tax payer subsidized give away to the health insurance industry and provides little benefit for those who are footing the bill. Urge your Senators to vote NO!!

    December 16, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  13. Enough

    Throw it out and work on real reform. I am sure both sides will agree that health insurance needs to be more affordable and available........start with the health insurance providers. The disagreement will come from who's paying for it..........if it is affordable and available, everyone can purchase their own coverage and that won't add to the deficit and promotes self responsibility. The poor people are already on medicaid, so that won't affect them. This plan is for legal citizens only.

    December 16, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  14. Reconciliation

    Harry Reid (Senate Majority Leader) should just file for reconciliation where there only needs to be 51 Senators to vote yes. The Democrats are stupid for trying to get 60 votes. This will never happen unless the bill is so water downed that it won't be real health care reform anyway.

    December 16, 2009 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  15. Scooter

    Isn't AARP still advertising that they help older AMERICANS. I belonged to AARP for many years and they still send me junk saying how they help us older people. NOW they have sided with the Obama crowd whose aim is to let the older people die.

    Hypocrites???? Why don't they admit that they have been taking the older people for a ride? Did they get any of the "Bail out" money from Obama?

    Using a phrase that has been around for many years– AARP-Bah Humbug.

    December 16, 2009 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  16. Dave

    Shocking, a bunch of unions and the left leaning AARP, which cam eout in support along time ago. Why is this news? Oh, right, it isn't. It is simply the left leaning press helping to push the effort of the Democrats to gain control and power.

    December 16, 2009 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  17. Steph

    Thank you AARP, Consumers Union and SEIU! We need reform. Even if it isn't perfect. We need something to start with. Improvements can be made later.

    December 16, 2009 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  18. RichP the Pocono's

    One thing, just one thing, how much is it going to cost, no BS, no buzz words like 'deficit neutral' on other snake words. How much more are you going to take out of MY paycheck. Answer that one question if you have the guts. Lets see where the rubber meets the road. Until you can do that you're just snake oil salesmen.

    December 16, 2009 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  19. Jeff

    Given the significant range of opinions, it is impossible to have a 'reform' that pleases everyone, and is fair to everyone.

    What, if any, issue is there with leaving this up to individual states? That way, the ones who want to go one way with it can, as can those who want to go another, without dragging the other along with them.

    Although opinions may vary within a given state, there is a better chance that a wider concensus will be reached than would be the case nationally.

    December 16, 2009 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  20. Tony

    AARP is not a legit group. Most of its members don't agree with its position on this horrible bill. Plus the stand to make billions selling their gap insurance. Unions don't count, they are a dying breed. If I were the Senators I would be looking at the polls that show over 60% of the public oppose these bills. Or just look out the window yesterday at the RALLY AGAINST THIS RAILROAD JOB.

    December 16, 2009 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  21. George

    With the wacko armed tea baggers running around, we all need health care. Wow the GNOPers sure are preying on the ignorant.
    They tell Bubba the dems will taker their guns, so Bubba locks and loads and goes to a tea bag town hall meeting. Anyone who is stupid enough to listen to the GOP is either stupid, sick, or VERY WEALTHY.

    December 16, 2009 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  22. Party Purity will never bring Political Power!

    Without a public option, you cannot have a mandate that most Americans must have insurance without an affordable alternative.

    Most folks would buy health insurance IF they could afford it.

    Also, making it illegal for insurance companies to deny pre-existing without a public option to compete, the insurance companies will only boost the premiums so high that the pre-existing condition could be covered but only if your a millionaire.

    Of course, the insurance companies would point out they are in compliance with the new law.

    Since 60% of Americans are ok with dying American kids, as long as it is not theirs, says this country is in a sad place.

    For the record this bleeding heart liberal does not have any kids but does care about those he cannot see or hear.

    December 16, 2009 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  23. Rick CT

    I'm a member of AARP. They do not represent my views.

    Has anyone woken up to the fact that a majority of this country opposes this legislation. But of course in true liberal fashion, we're being told that the liberals know what is right and any opinion to the contrary is by very definition wrong.

    There's no way this bill reduces the deficit by any legitimate accounting means. You can't spend more, provide more, not cut anything that currently exists and reduce the deficit.

    There are many good things in the bill, but St. Barack's promise to address malpractice reform and the windfall the tort lawyers (naturally a democrat constituancy) currently enjoy in this country has been completely ignored. This is one of the several shortfalls.

    In Afghanistan it was more important (according to St. Barack) to get it right as opposed to just getting it done. Why does not the same standard apply here? In every discussion, press conference, meeting with Congress (only the dems), all that matters is getting it done by a certain time. He never mentions getting it right.

    Failure to get it right will simply result in yet another government program to be mismanaged. Hey, they couldn't even process cash-fo-clunkers checks anywhere near close to on time. What happens when the public option (if it's put back in) or the governement subsidized coops (don't think the government won't try to run them) are months late with health care checks to doctors, hospitals, etc. See what kind of quality care is provided when the money drys up.

    But then again, according to the libs, I'm probably just another one of those dumb Americans who would be much better off if I surrendered my personal and professional life to the infinite wisdom of the government.

    December 16, 2009 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  24. Kevin in Ohio

    We all know that the SEIU is as corrupt as they come..... filled with communists and thugs. I am so glad I destroyed my AARP card.... that organization has lost every bit of its moral compass. This bill must not pass!

    December 16, 2009 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  25. dan

    Oh well, health care reform is dead again. The right wingers, led by Lieberman, have prevented any significant changes in the current system. The healtch insurance scam industry will be able to rake in record profits due to "mandatory" insurance requirements. Senator Lieberman will go on to enjoy the $1.5 million he got from the insurance scam industry. The repuplicans can rejoice that Amercians will be without decent health care for at least another decade, but their corporate paymasters will make billions, and pass on a few million to the congress people who blocked the threatened reform. Too bad Democrats are such wimps.

    December 16, 2009 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
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