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?"
"Yet another broken promise of bipartisanship by Obozo. What part of 'bi' is confusing?"
The only thing stupid about him promising bipartisanship is that he should have know that by doing so, he would be backing the GOP into a corner and it would immediately decide NEVER to behave in a bipartisan manner with him. Despite that, there were hundreds of GOP amendments proposed AND CONSIDERED AND VOTED ON. Sure, the majority did not pass, but that's what happens when your'e teh minority party...it's a representative democracy after all. However, some of those amendments DID get into the bills passed by both houses. Your rhetoric about a lack of bipartisanship is nothing more than political vomit...and that's without resorting to pointing out how the GOP behaved from 2000-2006 while it had control of both houses of Congress.
It is not "Health Reform" when it is packaged by a select group and shoved down the American citizen's throat.
Yeah... Let's compromise and scrap the entire thing.
The people of the US do not want this health care "reform" insanity crammed down their throats!
They don't want an idiotically inefficient, intrusive, over-bearing government bureaucracy interfering in their health care.
They don't want the costs of their health care to go up.
They don't want the quality of their health care to go down.
And a majority of Americans know that's exactly what will happen if the far-Left Dems get their way and cram this thing down America's collective throat.
There is a lot of confusion let me restate what liberals want
You know how Medicare insures the elderly?
You know how CHIP insures poor children?
We want a program like that for everybody else. If you can't afford healthcare, there is a government insurance plan that will help you.
That is all.
How did we get away from this simple easy message is beyond me?
If we don't get healthcare reform passed NOW, it will never get done. Republicans [THE [no ] LIES PARTY ] will see to that!! ONE FOOT FORWARD 10 BACKWARD
obama's health care handoff to the democrats in the house and the senate is not what the u.s. needs.... it is a power grab and a one way ticket down the toilet for jobs, employment, jobs, employment, small business, jobs, employment, and elderly people who will lose benefits to keep them well.... at the expense of never ending taxes imposed on the real middle class workers... (non-union) .... now that the "UNIONS" are crying about the cadillac taxes that would hammer them Mr. Obama will waste no time at all striking this from the bill to keep the thug unions vote..... what a wimp.... well middle class, get ready to bend over and take the rest of the democratic sausage.....
Go with 51 votes,get the public option or forget it.
We want the House version, not the Senate version. We need competition, not massive give-aways to big insurance and pharma.
"The only thing stupid about him promising bipartisanship is that he should have know that by doing so, he would be backing the GOP into a corner and it would immediately decide NEVER to behave in a bipartisan manner with him"
Talk about your political vomit. Never mind that the bill is absolute garbage. 40% tax on people’s health insurance if their plan is considered to have too much coverage is just one of the many brilliant ideas in this bill.
Don't blame the GOP because they couldn't go along with the worst bill ever conceived.
"and that's without resorting to pointing out how the GOP behaved from 2000-2006 while it had control of both houses of Congress."
You mean when we had an average of 5.4% unemployment? Yeah, I wouldn't bring that up if I were a lib and Obama spent 3-4 trillion to get to 10% unemployment.
So what, now that Senate Democrats have managed to decimate the bill and turn it into just a big payday for the insurance industry, what's next? Maybe Obama can add a couple of multimillion dollar bonuses in for heath insurance executives? Thanks to horrible leadership from the White House, meaningful healthcare reform has all but slipped from the grasp fof the democratically controlled congress. What a failure.
Lets hope Obama declines to run for a second term. Maybe we can elect an effective Democrat that can do more than just talk!
ONE AND DONE!!!
We have Americans dying by the thousands every year, because they do not have healthcare.
The number one reason for bankruptcy in our Nation, is due to the high cost of healthcare.
99% of Americans are ONE healthcare crisis away from losing everything they own.
However, the GOP spent two weeks ringing their hands over an attempted and thwarted attack.
AMERICA THE GOP DO NOT CARE ABOUT YOU!
I'm not at all confident in this so called healthcare plan.
"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. "
You can't have a national insurance exchange because every state has a different scope of practice. If they were going to do it, it has to be done on the state level.
Good to know the House Dems are slightly more intellectually challenged than the Dems in the Senate.
I has the same thought too. Obama is a very weak, inexperienced leader. He has no business mind too. It seems he knows nothing. He has good heart that makes him a weak leader. You can't just feed people. THis will make people lazy. I wish he can urge people who is collecting unemployment to work in volunteer work instead of feeding them free. If he wants to reform health service, why can't he think to improve general hospital so low income or no insurance people can be treated equally there, instead of taking advantage from working class people. Actually, he is not reforming health service. He is promoting health insurance co. to get richer and richer. Can American people see what is going on?
Well, if the president is involved I think the bill has a better chance of being accepted.
The tin-foil, deather, birther whiners are complaining on behalf of their partners, the big insurance companies...oh wait, the big insurance companies are not their partners. They're complaining because they have nothing else to do, and they are morons.
I was flipping through CSPAN today looking for the health care talks...but I couldn't find them. Can someone tell me where I can go to view Obama's campaign promise?
Yeah, President Obama. You are doing a great job with healthcare, and the people who are whining, didn't like you anyway. So continue to ignore them, and please run for another term. I will definitely vote for you.
And to all those who are whining and complaining–don't hate, celebrate.
People if this bill don't pass "Health Reform" will be a big mistake to the American people, This will be the last opportunite for HR. Republicans will never pass any health form bill
All those people complaining saying some Health Care bill is better than restarting the process obviously care more about politics than they do about the Health care of Americans.
We need REAL Health Care Reform, not some piece of paper that will do nothing but increase our insurance cost while reducing our health care benefits.
The only people winning are the Insurance Companies ....as the White House continues to push to give them millions of additional customers on a silver platter.
Forget about politics and start working for the people that need REAL HEALTH Care......we DON"T WANT THIS BILL!!!!
The majority of WE THE PEOPLE do NOT want this government rationed health care mess and evidently our politicians don't either – none of them will be using it.
That is the funniest headline of all time. Obama works to compromise with DEMOCRATS. Ummmmm, isn't a particular group missing from this process?
Would there be anything sweeter than Massachusetts electing a Republican?
Obama you just dont get it. We dont want Obama Care we want JOBS, We dont want our money gooing out of country We want JOBS. We are sorry for Hati, but America needs JOBS, so Obama try spending our money on the problems here rather than support and rebuild another country. America needs JOBS here not somewhere else. So Obama get the message, America needs jobs HERE.
Please notice no republicans are being asked to work on the compromise. Wonder why?? Maybe because they are for something besides gov. takeover and rationing healthcare for seniors.
I see Obama and the Crap House have put out new job reports that say Obama the savior created 2 million jobs. More BS from hitler, Oh Obama and more smoke screen coverup from a lier that is living on the money of the people, hmmmm just another welfare person living free on the government. So now we can say that Obama is our welfare president and he is destroying the USA.
Obama, try to understand, WE DONT BELIEVE YOU ANYMORE>
I believe the following are extremely important and must be part of the final bill:
– A robust public option to guarantee true competition in the health care marketplace
– No exclusions for pre-existing conditions
– No "trigger"
– No Stupak-type amendments
These changes would result in a healthier, more productive populace. This is a win-win for both families and business.