WASHINGTON (CNN) – Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, the Democrat who chairs one of the Senate committees tasked with developing health care legislation, promised Friday that a health care bill will be on President Obama's desk before Christmas and will include a so-called "public option."
"I believe we are in an irrevocable position," Harkin said on a conference call organized by the health care reform group Families USA. "The momentum is there. We will not get stopped by the obstructionists. We will have the votes."
Harkin became chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee after the former chairman, the late Ted Kennedy, passed away in September. His committee has already passed a more liberal version of the health care bill that includes a public option - legislation that will have to be merged with the bill that passed the Senate Finance Committee earlier this week before the Senate can vote on final legislation. Democrats need sixty votes to end debate before a vote can held.
Pointing to a Thursday meeting of Senate Democrats in which most members of the caucus expressed support for a government-run insurance plan, Harkin said only five members of his party are holding up progress toward a such a plan.
INDIANOLA, Iowa (CNN) - Sen. Al Franken, D-Minnesota, the former comedian who has largely put the funny business on hold as he plays catch-up due to his late arrival in Washington, proved to a Iowa crowd Sunday that he's still got it.
The "Saturday Night Live" alum and Minnesota native was the keynote speaker at Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin's annual Steak Fry party fundraiser.
For obvious reasons, this year's speeches centered largely around health-care reform.
Harkin was recently named chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, taking control of the seat held by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy.
Also a member of that committee now, Franken, in his deadpan delivery, used sarcasm to highlight the importance of the post.
"Its not really that big a deal," he said to laughter, as he slowly went through the list of the group's topics. "I mean, it's only health. Education. Labor. And pensions. I mean, who really would care about those things? Except for maybe people who are concerned about their health or their kids' health or maybe want their kids to go to, oh, a good school, or I don't know, people who work."
The crowd of a couple thousand chuckled and gave him cheers and applause. He then got a bit more serious.
(CNN) - More and more, a possible compromise on how to overhaul the nation's ailing health-care system is taking shape.
Senators from both parties provided further clues Sunday to the potential form of a final agreement on the partisan issue that has sparked a heated nationwide debate, including last week's unprecedented heckling of President Barack Obama in Congress.
Two prominent senators said Sunday that a House health-care bill drafted by Democrats and vehemently opposed by Republicans and conservatives is dead. The senators - Democrat Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina - said on Fox News Sunday that any chance for a health-care overhaul focuses now on a compromise bill being negotiated by members of the Senate Finance Committee.
Another senior Demoratic lawmaker on Sunday promised that the Senate's health-care bill would include a public option that would have support from "some" Republicans.
"The bill - mark my word, I'm the chairman - is going to have a strong public option," said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who recently fill the late Sen. Ted Kennedy's seat as chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Harkin was speaking to a supportive crowd at his annual steak fry fundraiser for Iowa Democrats.
Meanwhile, a moderate Republican senator considered one of the few who might cross the aisle to support health-care legislation being pushed by Democrats said she rejects a possible compromise provision - a trigger mechanism that would bring in a government-funded public health insurance option in the future if initial reforms fail to achieve specific thresholds.
INDIANOLA, Iowa (CNN) - Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, a Democrat who recently filled the late Sen. Ted Kennedy's seat as chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said Sunday that a Senate health-care reform bill would include a "strong" public option and that it would get through by the holiday recess.
He also said it will have support from "some" Republicans, although he said he isn't sure how many.
"I'm ready to carry on [Kennedy's] work, and I'm ready to get a health reform bill passed and to President Obama before Christmas comes this December," Harkin said in a fiery push for health reform during a speech at his annual Steak Fry, a fundraiser for Iowa Democrats.
"That bill - mark my word, I'm the chairman - is going to have a strong public option," he added to thunderous applause.
In a media availability held just prior to his speech, Harkin said he believed the legislation would be able to garner enough support from both sides of the aisle - potentially enough to label it bipartisan when all is said and done.
"We will have some Republicans on our bill," Harkin said.
While reflecting on Kennedy, Harkin called him a "great friend" whose legacy will be tough to live up to.
"We lost a great progressive, a great leader on so many issues...It now falls to me to pick up the torch," Harkin said, adding that he is up to the challenge.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Sen. Tom Harkin will replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy as chairman of the important Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced the news Wednesday afternoon while speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill. Harkin is a Democrat from Iowa.
There was speculation that Sen. Chris Dodd would replace Kennedy as chairman of the committee. Dodd, a Democrat from Connecticut, had been steering the panel this year, as Kennedy battled brain cancer. Kennedy died two weeks ago.
The HELP committee is one of two Senate panels that worked on health care reform legislation.
The HELP committee, with Dodd filling in for Kennedy, passed a health care bill earlier this summer. The Senate Finance Committee continues to work towards a possible bipartisan bill.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Minnesota Sen.-elect Al Franken will be the featured speaker at Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin's annual steak fry this September. Franken spokeswoman Jess McIntosh confirmed that the senator-elect would be speaking at the event and said that Franken had signed on to do so prior to this week's certification of his election. "Al was thrilled to be invited and [is] eager to attend," she said.
The event, one of the Iowa Democratic Party's largest fundraisers, has long been considered one of the biggest events in Democratic politics. In 2007, it featured virtually every Democratic presidential contender – Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd and Bill Richardson.
The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that Franken had defeated incumbent senator Norm Coleman in the state's November Senate race. With the ruling, Franken became the Democratic caucuses' 60th vote in the senate. However, the former comedian dismissed the notion that he would be an automatic 60th vote.
"The way I see it, I'm not going to Washington to be the 60th Democratic senator," Franken said during a press conference held shortly after the court's ruling. "I'm going to Washington to be the second senator from the state of Minnesota and that's how I am going to do this job."
The steak fry will be held on September 13.
Updated at 12:30 p.m. with Senate vote
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The U.S. Senate on Thursday was scheduled to consider a resolution apologizing to African-Americans for the wrongs of slavery.
The nonbinding resolution sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, is similar to a House resolution adopted last year that acknowledged the wrongs of slavery but offered no reparations.
Several states have passed similar resolutions, but the House resolution was the first time a branch of the federal government did so.
Harkin's resolution "acknowledges the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality and inhumanity of slavery, and Jim Crow laws," and "apologizes to African-Americans on behalf of the people of the United States, for the wrongs committed against them and their ancestors who suffered under slavery and Jim Crow laws."
Jim Crow, or Jim Crow laws, were state and local laws enacted mostly in the Southern and border states of the United States between the 1870s and 1965, when African-Americans were denied the right to vote and other civil liberties, and were legally segregated from whites.
Some members of the African-American community have called on lawmakers to give cash payments or other financial benefits to descendants of slaves as compensation for the suffering caused by slavery.
UPDATE: The measure passed the Senate Thursday on a voice vote. While the House passed a similar resolution last year, the chamber will have to vote on it again this session. It is unclear if and when the House will take it up.
The measure will not go to the president because this is a non-binding resolution of the Congress.