Washington (CNN) - With last week's health care summit showing no sign of getting either side to budge, lawmakers Sunday staked out positions in the battle many believe is imminent: a presidential effort to push legislation through without Republican support.
On the political talk shows, Democratic and GOP leaders fought over budget reconciliation, the parliamentary procedure that could allow a vote in the Senate and circumvent a GOP filibuster.
Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, told CNN's "State of the Union" that he and other lawmakers "do not think something of this magnitude ought to be jammed down the throats of a public that doesn't want it through this kind of device."
Related video: McConnell on reconciliation
And Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, told ABC's "This Week" that "It would be a political kamikaze mission for the Democratic Party if they jam this through."
But Democrats cast it as a chance to enact critical reforms. "We'd really like to get a bipartisan bill," Sen. Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey, told "FOX News Sunday." "In the absence of that," he added, the maneuver could help the country "move forward on health care reform."
The Democrats’ "way forward" on health care reform hit a pothole Sunday when the mild mannered Chair of the Budget Committee, Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND) said on CBS that reconciliation for comprehensive health care reform "will not work." Oops. For starters, Conrad doesn't think insurance market reform, or delivery system reform can be passed using reconciliation.
Senator John McCain (R-AZ) told NBC he also wants Medicare out of the mix, arguing entitlements are "too important" to be part of the reconciliation process.
And certainly a bipartisan vote is all but out of the question. Asked if there was anything the president could do to get Republican votes, short of starting over, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told me, "I don't think so…"
Where will it all end? Whatever "it" is may end at the ballot box. On State of the Union, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) tossed off any whispers that she could end up losing her House majority. "The Democrats will retain the majority in the House of Representatives... I'm not yielding one grain of sand." She artfully dodged an opportunity to guess how many, if any seats she might lose.
But, on ABC, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is predicting (or is that hoping?) that if the Democrats go the reconciliation route and "jam this through" it would be "a political kamikaze mission for the Democratic Party."
“Just because it’s been used before for lesser issues, doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for this issue,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on CNN’s State of the Union.
Speaking with CNN Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley, the Kentucky Republican also predicted that health care reform legislation would not get a single GOP vote in the Senate and that Democrats would move forward without the GOP through use of reconciliation.
Citing a recent Gallup survey, the leading Republican noted that a majority of Americans do not favor use of the special Senate procedure to pass health care reform. “The American people do not want us to use that kind of parliamentary device to jam this down their throats,” said McConnell.
With a showdown over reconciliation looking very likely, McConnell refused to discuss the parliamentary tactics the GOP might use to frustrate Democrats in their plan to pass aspects of health care reform with a simple majority of 51 votes in the Senate.
Washington (CNN) - President Obama got a checkup Sunday, and his doctor liked what he found.
"The president is in excellent health and 'fit for duty,'" Dr. Jeff Kuhlman, a Navy captain and physician to the president wrote in his report. "All clinical data indicate that he will remain so for the duration of his presidency."
The doctor did recommend Obama change his eating habits a bit. "Recommend dietary modification to reduce LDL cholesterol below 130," Kuhlman wrote. The report lists Obama's LDL level at 138. LDL, or low-density lipoprotein, is what's known as "bad" cholesterol, according to the American Heart Association.
Kuhlman noted that the 48-year-old president should keep up his efforts to stop smoking. Obama's medications include nicotine replacement therapy.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday that last week's White House health care summit was a chance for his party "to display some of our brightest, most knowledgeable Republicans" on the subject of health care policy. (Photo Credit: CNN)
Washington (CNN) – Just days after a bipartisan, televised 7-hour White House summit on health care reform, the leading Republican in the Senate predicted that his entire caucus will act in lockstep and none will vote for the final provisions of health care reform legislation likely to be presented in the next month.
Sen. Mitch McConnell said twice Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union that he does not think a single Senate Republican will support the final legislation.
And, in the absence of any GOP support in the Senate, McConnell also predicted that congressional Democrats will proceed to use reconciliation, a Senate procedure reserved for budgetary matters which will allow Democrats to pass some aspects of their health care reform agenda without having to face a threatened Republican filibuster.
Asked about the GOP’s staunch refusal to play ball with President Obama and Capitol Hill Democrats after a year’s worth of legislative work on health care reform, the Senate Minority Leader defended the position of congressional Republicans.
“That would be great but that’s not enough to compensate for this massive government takeover of the U.S. health care system,” McConnell told CNN Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley after she asked whether Republicans could support a final bill that included meaningful medical malpractice reform, a top GOP priority. “It’s just simply not a symmetrical trade-off, if you will. That would be a step in the right direction but I don’t think that alone is going to get many of our votes.”
Even though McConnell appeared to concede that last week’s summit had not succeeded in breaking the policy logjam over health care, the Kentucky Republican praised the event as being positive overall for the GOP.
Washington (CNN) – The top Republican in the Senate suggested Sunday that his party will likely face a favorable political environment in November’s midterm elections.
“Obviously we’re optimistic,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union when asked whether he thought his party would pick up Senate seats later this year. “I think the elections in Virginia and New Jersey and particularly Massachusetts were encouraging. But, in the meantime, we need to be doing the people’s business and not trying to predict what the environment may be in November.
“If the election were today, we’d have a very good day,” said McConnell.
Like many leading Republicans in Congress have done recently, McConnell also sought to embrace the Tea Partiers, a conservative grassroots movement that has sometimes clashed with the GOP in the last year.
Asked by CNN Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley whether the movement helps Republicans in every case, McConnell responded: “It’s an indication of the energy out in the country. A lot of people, principally driven by this outrageous federal debt that we have, are energized and want to change the country. Most of them are going to be participating in Republican primaries.
“I think that energy will be beneficial to us,” the Kentucky Republican added.
“The Democrats will retain the majority in the House of Representatives,” Pelosi says in an interview set to air Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union.
Pelosi adds, “I'm not yielding one grain of sand, we're fighting for every seat.”
The California Democrat told CNN Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley that in campaigning for November’s elections Democrats need to be aggressive in explaining to the public everything the party has done.
“So Democrats are ready. We're confident of that - what we have done for the American people. We have to get out there. We've been working hard, now we have to go out. We said we were going to do certain things, we did them. Now we have to go talk about what we have done.”
“Bipartisanship is a two-way street,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declares in an interview airing Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union.
“But let me say this,” Pelosi continues, “The bill can be bipartisan, even though the votes might not be bipartisan, because they [Republicans] have made their imprint on this.”
Pelosi pointed to the fact that the final bill will, in all likelihood, not include a government-run public health insurance option, a provision vigorously opposed by congressional Republicans but supported by liberal House Democrats. Instead, Pelosi tells CNN Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley, Democrats have settled on insurance exchanges as a way to help contain health care costs. That compromise position, Pelosi suggested, reflects an acknowledgement of Republicans’ approach to health care reform.
Reflecting a key provision of the Senate bill passed late last year, the legislative outline released by the White House last week does not include a public option. Asked about the White House’s decision to forego a provision popular with many liberals in the Democratic Party, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the administration made that decision because it did not appear that there would be sufficient votes to get the public option passed in Congress. Although some liberal Democrats in both chambers favor a public option, a substantial block of conservative Democrats in the House, known as the Blue Dogs, do not support it.
In the interview, Pelosi is also quick to suggest that President Obama and congressional Democrats have gone to great lengths to give Republicans an opportunity to weigh in on health care reform notwithstanding fundamental ideological differences between the two parties.
Asked in an interview airing Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union, Pelosi refused to say whether she would vote for the legislative outline Obama published on the Internet last week.
"I like what the president has done,” Pelosi said of the White House’s efforts to reconcile the health care reform bills passed by Democrats in the House and the Senate.
“I want to make sure that we have - we have 3 criteria for us in the House, Pelosi continued. “Affordability for the middle class. And I think we can do a little better on affordability. I don't know that. We have to examine the language very carefully. Accountability of the insurance companies, and the president is very good on that. And accessibility to many more people. And he certainly is there.
So we just want to make sure the affordability language is as strong as it needs to be.”