January 13th, 2010
03:44 PM ET
8 years ago

Obama works on health care compromise with Hill Democrats

Obama works on health care compromise with Hill Democrats.

Obama works on health care compromise with Hill Democrats.

Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama huddled with top Capitol Hill Democrats at the White House on Wednesday as congressional leaders sought to find enough middle ground to pass a sweeping health care reform bill.

The meeting was part of a series of feverish negotiations among House and Senate Democrats trying to close ranks on a series of controversial issues.

Liberals in the House of Representatives are particularly upset with a provision in the Senate bill that would impose an excise tax on high-end insurance plans.

The ongoing deliberations are necessary to craft a final bill from the $1 trillion measure approved by the House in November and an $871 billion plan cleared by the Senate in December.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid would like to pass a compromise bill before the president's upcoming State of the Union address, though some Democrats have indicated that timetable could slip.

House Democrats are trying to forge a new consensus within their divided caucus during a three-day legislative retreat in Washington this week. Obama is scheduled to address the caucus on Thursday; former President Bill Clinton will speak on Friday.

One of the most divisive issues for Democrats is the Senate bill's inclusion of a 40 percent tax on insurance companies that provide plans valued at more than $8,500 for individuals and $23,000 for families.

Proponents of the tax on such "Cadillac" plans argue it's one of the most effective ways to curb medical inflation. Many Democrats, however, oppose taxing expensive policies because it would hurt union members who traded higher salaries for more generous health benefits.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka warned Monday that Democrats risk losing critical union support in November's midterm elections if they don't drop the tax.

Labor leaders have urged Congress and the White House to instead adopt the House health care financing plan, which includes a 5.4 percent income tax surcharge on individuals earning over $500,000 and families earning more than $1 million.

One possible compromise idea now being considered by Democrats is to raise the income threshold for the excise tax in an attempt to hit fewer workers, several Democratic leadership sources have told CNN.

The sources said Democratic leaders are considering a range of thresholds as high as $28,000. In order to make up for the difference in lost revenue, an additional boost in Medicare taxes for wealthy Americans is being considered, according to multiple Democratic congressional sources.

The expanded Medicare tax would be extended to cover earnings on investments, which currently are exempt, the sources noted.

The current Senate bill would hike Medicare payroll taxes on families making over $250,000; the House bill does not.

Even if House and Senate Democrats reach a compromise on funding, they still have to tackle a range of other controversial issues. Among other things, Democrats have to reach a decision on whether to include a government-run public insurance option, as well as on language relating to abortion coverage and illegal immigration.

House Democrats are also urging the Senate and the White House to agree to set up a national insurance exchange in the final bill, instead of the state-based exchanges in the Senate bill.

The exchanges are designed to make it easier for small businesses, the self-employed and the unemployed to pool resources and purchase less expensive coverage.

House Republicans, meanwhile, reiterated their contention on Wednesday that any bill emerging from Democratic negotiations will be fundamentally flawed in part because it will fail to rein in spiraling health care costs.

GOP leaders said at a Capitol Hill news conference that they would try to defeat a final bill by persuading enough moderate and conservative Democrats to vote against it.

"We're looking at 37 Democrats who are in districts ... that are particularly upset and vulnerable to the provisions of this health care bill," said Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Virginia.

"The choice is very clear for the Democratic members on the other side who sit in these seats that reflect a much more center-right America. And the choice for them is - are they going to be with the people or are they going to be with Pelosi?"

Filed under: Democrats • Health care • President Obama
soundoff (84 Responses)
  1. Bing Hastings

    Obama does not care if 1/2 the country disapproves of him, his democraps, and the "health care" bill – which does not care for health at all. Leadership? I think not!

    January 13, 2010 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  2. Randolph Carter, I'm no expert but......

    It's good to see the corporate lobbyists' healthcare plan is coming along nicely. Can't wait to see the plan they come up with for financial reform. (sarcasm) Have a nice day!

    January 13, 2010 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  3. Mike Syracuse, NY

    Yet another broken promise of bipartisanship by Obozo. What part of 'bi' is confusing?

    January 13, 2010 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  4. Four and The Door

    The expanded Medicare tax would be extended to cover earnings on investments, which currently are exempt, the sources noted.
    It is numbheaded decisions like this that will keep the economy and unemployment from recovering. Remember though, these are the same economic wizards that brought you the Stimulus Bill. They need to be judged on the performance of their actions and they will be.

    January 13, 2010 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  5. tate

    WHy cant he just move to haiti and leave this country alone, he is doing 100xs more damage than any earthquake ever could.

    January 13, 2010 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  6. Dodd Democrat...


    The President continues to move away from his campaign promises......so were they promises or down and out lies?

    January 13, 2010 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  7. Jane/Seattle

    WE REQUIRE REGULATION OF THIS INDUSTRY SO THEY WILL BE FORCED TO STOP THE GOUGING US! We also require the Public Option to further control these obscene profits and offer competition since capitalists worship this concept so very much!

    If this is not done correctly, I guarantee that the citizenry will be moving to change the population in government. We also need comprehensive campaign finance reform to stop enabling these Predators who rob us daily as the Village FAILS our Children, The Disabled and others are forced to Suffer with hunger, homelessness, little healthcare for their bodies/minds (their homes), worsening educational systems, and all things capitalistic seeking to destroy our way of lives! You'd think they'd just go ahead and erect a BIG Dollar Sign on top of everything and the churches as this is what is worshipped under this system! Sign me, Getting more annoyed by the minute!

    January 13, 2010 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  8. Lee in TN

    I think it is a shame that the Senate is trying to pay for healthcare reform on the backs of workers who have worked and earned their insurance coverage. We will never see appropriate coverage for Americans until these prima donnas in the Senate pay their fair share and live with the same coverage.

    January 13, 2010 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  9. John Jay

    The Presiden't original proposal was better than what you have now. have a non-profit insurance pool paid for with premiums of those who would use it. take away the insurance monopoly, pre-existing condition etc. Those right wingers who don't want reform can keep what they have. When insurance companies start rapping them, then charge them a heft premium to switch to the non profit option. It's about choices.

    January 13, 2010 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  10. joe kiloz

    drop it for now

    January 13, 2010 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  11. Ethan

    Git er done, Dems!

    January 13, 2010 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  12. Mike in SA

    "Obama works on health care compromise with Hill Democrats"...hmmm

    It should more correctly be, "Obama works on back room political payoffs plan with Hill Democrats"

    January 13, 2010 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  13. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    Get a conference bill done as soon as possible. WIthout that, people will speculate on utterly false things that weren't in either the House or Senate bills.

    January 13, 2010 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  14. Mike

    It's unfortunate that the Senate has the upper hand in all of these negotiations.....The House Bill appears to be MUCH better than the Senate Bill, yet the final bill will probably reflect more of the Senate's version. I hope that the Senate has SOME concessions to the House, like making a National Exchange and not just state run exchanges....

    January 13, 2010 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  15. jpspec

    Soory, I cannot make a comment at this time because I do not know what Pelosi told him to do.

    January 13, 2010 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  16. Isaac

    I would tell president Obama not to leave any promises, he made while he was campaining. A lot of people are counting on him specially the middle class. Health care without public option favors insurance company

    January 13, 2010 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  17. mark

    more taxes on the middle class obama – what a great idea!

    January 13, 2010 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  18. Bob in Pa

    BO, lets get this bill down to $0.00 !

    January 13, 2010 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |

    JUST SAY NO TO OBAMA DISASTER CARE. Vote all out of office who votes for this disaster.

    January 13, 2010 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  20. Greg Pottstown PA

    The dems will just pass anything in the end. It is more important for them to pass anything than it is to pass good legislation. If they pass a bad bill they will just blame the repubs like they do with everything.

    And the presidents #s continue to fall. He is currently the lowest approved of of any at one year in. I smell a one term president. If the republicans wanted to trash the dem party all they have to do is continue to let the dems have control. They will run this country in to the ground so bad they will never be elected again.

    The funniest thing about all of this is that the dems are having trouble passing this thing with super majorities and the hole time calling the repubs obstructionists, The dems don't need a single vote from the repubs, there is nothing for them to obstruct. Get over it it is a bad idea.

    January 13, 2010 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  21. Gary

    Don't let President Obama try to sneak in a public option or government panel. Don't let him increase taxes, especially taxes on health insurance! Don't exclude Union workers from paying their fair share if Obama and Pelosi force new taxes on us. Don't give any states preferential treatment (this smells of bribery to me). The bill as it stands is unfair and unconstitutional....we need to start over. We need more balance in congress. Obama, Pelosi and Reid are in bed with special interest groups and not listening to Americans. Vote them out of office!

    January 13, 2010 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  22. Steve (the real one)

    is this on C-SPAN yet? That was his promise after all! I hope for a change in 2010 and beyond. As for AFL-CIO threats about the Dems losing union support? Who else are they going to vote for? They are sewn up in the back pockets of the liberals! Talk about the American Idol (threat)!

    January 13, 2010 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  23. mike

    if anybody thought this was going to be cut an dry there in the same
    league as Sarah Palin of course it is going to be tough but at the end
    it becomes law and can be built on in the future that is why the
    republican party is against it all the way

    January 13, 2010 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  24. Lets vote all repugs out of office!!!

    Pelosi, Pelosi, Pelosi!! Good one Cantor......isn't this becoming a little sexist at this point!!!!

    January 13, 2010 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  25. Kevin in Ohio

    Better hurry up...keep ramming this down our throats! The 41st vote is on its way.

    January 13, 2010 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
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