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. j

    Just water it down some more. It's already a pretty useless "reform" bill so a little more watering down won't hurt it any.

    January 13, 2010 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  2. nwatcher

    "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."
    WAIT RIGHT THERE! Now I am confused...since when did liberals care about taxing rich people? Quit changing the game, I thought I was getting this figured out! Did I read this right?

    January 13, 2010 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  3. Orange Curtain, CA

    Give us public option, Medicare expansion for 55 + or something!

    January 13, 2010 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  4. Chris - Denver

    Git 'er done!

    January 13, 2010 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  5. Illinoistom

    Better hurry up and ram this big insurance- big pharma bailout down our throats before you lose your 60th vote next tuesday!

    January 13, 2010 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  6. Steve (the real one)

    @nwatcher January 13th, 2010 4:39 pm ET

    "WAIT RIGHT THERE! Now I am confused...since when did liberals care about taxing rich people?
    There is such as animal as a rich liberal! Now since the taxes will affect them, they suddenly care!

    January 13, 2010 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  7. Fnord-a-saurus Rex

    It's funny to see all these people blaming Obama for this mess. Maybe if the GOP actually cared about the working class we would have a real bill. Single payer is the only real reform. The Dems might be spineless but the Repubs are intentionally trying to sink anything Obama does/ doesn't do / wants to do/ thinks about doing / regardless of the benefit to America

    January 13, 2010 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  8. If you want something ruined, put a republican in charge

    I am also upset with Cantor's version and description of health reform. It is a good thing he has no clue as to what reality is. He is a typical stupid insignificant republican.

    January 13, 2010 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  9. Grrr-Awful-O

    ... but it's still not on CSPAN as promised. But then, as Pelosi said last week, "President Obama made lots of promises during the campaign..."...

    "Change You Can..." ... Oh, shut up!

    January 13, 2010 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  10. If you want something ruined, put a republican in charge

    Pelosi is the only member of the house with leadership skills. This is why republicans and Fox new are afraid of her. Go Nancy, slap those republican wussies.

    January 13, 2010 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  11. Steve (the real one)

    @Mike Syracuse, NY January 13th, 2010 3:55 pm ET

    Yet another broken promise of bipartisanship by Obozo. What part of 'bi' is confusing
    Is it 'Bi" or" Buy"? The way they are spending our money, the liberals heard BUY!

    January 13, 2010 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  12. Four and The Door

    nwatcher January 13th, 2010 4:39 pm ET

    "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."
    WAIT RIGHT THERE! Now I am confused...since when did liberals care about taxing rich people?
    Most rich people don't get high end insurance plans. Unions do.

    Do you think our new Liberal government used $50 billion of our tax money to bail out Chrysler and GM because of all of the support they got from the management or the shareholders? Not so. It was to pay back the UAW for their support. The UAW got a big chunk of the pie, too!

    January 13, 2010 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  13. Dar

    Compromise?????????? Another name for BRIB in the Odumbo house. This is going to get ugly fast, real fast.

    January 13, 2010 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  14. Hammerer

    Obamacare is a "Systematic Failure".

    January 13, 2010 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  15. WrongKindofChange

    Oh so by compromise, it means that Obama and the other democrat leaders are willing and ready to open up the country's wallet in order to buy the votes they need to pass it. All behind closed doors of course.

    January 13, 2010 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  16. Lynne

    If we don't get healthcare reform passed NOW, it will never get done. Republicans will see to that!!

    January 13, 2010 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  17. Jaxson

    if we want to get anyhing accomplished they'd better be a Democrat around. Republicans have become useless. The GOP sure ain't the party Mom and Pop once supported. Go President Obama!!

    January 13, 2010 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  18. The Big Obama Hater . . .

    El Rushbo attacked our President because he immediately reacted to the death and destruction in Haiti, but waited three days to have reacted to the failed Xmas terrorist bombing.

    Please report this CNN. This human low-life needs to be exposed.
    This worm needs to be turned.

    January 13, 2010 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  19. MatthewDetroit

    Give it up Barack....

    You are a lousy president and a lousy leader...

    The country is broke and YOU have us at 10.0% unemployment while Fostering and Growing a 1.4 TRILLION dollar debt...

    You are spending like a drunken sailor and you have NO responsibility.
    The country is UNSAFE with you at the wheel and we are losing jobs every day... You have ruined the US and you are causing more damage each day...


    January 13, 2010 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  20. MatthewDetroit

    Who are you going to bribe next...

    Who are you going to threaten next...

    Great compromise...You cant even get your own party to buy into your lies....

    You are a Liar Barack... A liar and a street thug con men....Well done Chicago

    January 13, 2010 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  21. Adalbert

    It is obvious that the people making negative remarks about our proposed HC have no clue as to how many of our fellow citizens die and soffer from lack of good HC. The said part of it is that they do not even care.

    January 13, 2010 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  22. arch

    It appears that this dude can do anything he wants and get away with it. He is not a leader, but a follower. He is following what he is being told by the people that run him. It bothers me that the people that live in this country have this inability of knowing what is truthful and what is wrong. It is like they are afraid to admit the truth about Obama. That they made a mistake and wished they would have never voted for the puppet on a string. I just pray that these people realize this at some point in time, (before the next election), and don't make the same mistake they made before. Obama has what he wanted. After this term he needs to go away and let people who know what to do run the show. He will be in the books, etc. That seems to be very important to him. More than what is good for the country. He hasn't told a truth yet. He had promised this and that, but hasn't come through with anything except what he wants. What is there to hammer out? He has his "yes" people sitting there waiting for him to tell them what to do. We need a leader that has the guts to do what is right. This guy doesn't have it.

    January 13, 2010 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  23. Joe sixpack loser

    These republican't traitors sure are full of hate! Don't they remember that they lost the presential election in 2008? Americans know they have the best man in charge who will help us progress as a nation. Knuckle-dragging rushbots and Palin worshipping fools can cry all they want but they forget who this nation voted for.

    January 13, 2010 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  24. Allen

    Obama is a disgrace as a President. He is making Carter and Nixon look good at this point.

    January 13, 2010 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  25. MJ

    We certainly know where Obama's priorities are .. This so-called Heath Reform is a slap in the face to all of America. How stupid does he think we are? The only thing this mess will accomplish is to RAISE Insurance Rates and tax us to pay for it.

    January 13, 2010 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
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