July 26th, 2009
03:46 PM ET
11 years ago

Conrad: Dems lack votes to pass health care reform on their own

Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad said Sunday that it's 'not possible, and perhaps not desirable either' for his party to pass health care reform without Republican support.

Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad said Sunday that it's 'not possible, and perhaps not desirable either' for his party to pass health care reform without Republican support.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - A key Democratic senator in health care reform negotiations said Sunday that his party lacks the votes to pass a bill through Congress on its own.

Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota told the ABC program "This Week" that the issue affecting every American and more than 15 percent of the U.S. economy requires broad support.

Asked if Democrats could push through a bill without Republican support, Conrad said: "It is not possible, and perhaps not desirable either."

Conrad is one of a handful of Senate Finance Committee members - Democrats and Republicans - negotiating a compromise bill that would be the first bipartisan health care proposal.

The Finance Committee version lacks a government-funded public insurance option favored by Democrats and included in a Democratic bill already passed by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky told CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday that none of his fellow Republicans in the chamber supported the public insurance option.

Conrad has proposed an alternative to the public option that calls for health insurance cooperatives that could arrange collective coverage for members. He said such non-profit cooperatives would provide competition for private insurers while avoiding the Republican concern of government-funded programs monopolizing the health insurance market.

"There is an alternative that puts forth the best of both sides," Conrad said.

Republican Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina indicated such a compromise could appeal to his party.

"We can have a plan in a few weeks if the goal is not a government takeover," DeMint said on "This Week."

On the House side, Speaker Nancy Pelosi insists a Democratic proposal that includes the public option will win approval from the full chamber, despite squabbling among House Democrats over the measure's cost.

In a pre-taped interview broadcast Sunday on "State of the Union," Pelosi said she would corral enough votes to move forward President Barack Obama's top domestic priority this year.

One of the squabbling House Democrats, Rep. Jim Cooper of Tennessee, agreed a House bill could pass this year, but he called for more specifics from Pelosi and Obama on how the proposal under debate in the House would work.

"We want a good bill to pass this year and I think that can happen," said Cooper, one of the 52 fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats who are questioning the cost of the House bill that so far has passed two committees.

The Blue Dogs have enough votes on a third committee - the Energy and Commerce panel - to prevent the bill from moving to the full House for a vote. They have so far squeezed one concession from Obama - creation of an independent body to recommend levels of Medicare reimbursement in coming years.

"I think that the American people want to take a closer look at this legislation," Cooper said on the CBS program "Face the Nation."

"They want to feel comfortable with it."

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office predicted the House bill would cost more than $1 trillion over 10 years, and end up increasing the federal deficit by $239 billion in that period. Supporters of the bill contend the CBO analysis failed to factor in all spending cuts, such as reduced costs due to planned preventive care programs.

Cooper said the goal of any legislation should be to slow the current rate of health spending, which he said runs at 2.5 percent above inflation. Holding that increase to the rate of inflation would make health care more sustainable in the long run, he said.

"But there's resistance to that because a lot of the health care sector has gotten so fat and happy on the extra money, they don't know how to just live on an inflationary adjustment," Cooper said.

The House bill includes Democratic proposals for a public option, mandates for people to be insured and for employers to provide coverage, and an end to lack of coverage due to a pre-existing condition.

Republicans oppose a government-funded option and any requirement for employers to provide coverage. They also call for limits on medical malpractice lawsuits, which Democrats don't favor, along with a number of provisions
contained in the Democratic bills, including increased efficiency in Medicare and Medicaid and a focus on preventive health programs.

The House is scheduled to break for its August recess on July 31, with the Senate's planned break beginning Aug. 7.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said last week the chamber would not vote on health care before the upcoming recess to give the Finance Committee more time to work out its compromise plan.

Reid's announcement went against Obama's stated timetable for both the House and Senate to turn out bills before the August break. After Reid's statement, Obama said he would accept a delay so long as work toward passing a bill continued.

Pelosi has said she wants a House vote before the break, and House leaders have indicated the chamber could remain in session past the start of the scheduled recess to get the bill passed.

Once each chamber passes a bill, a conference committee will merge the two measures into a single proposal that must win approval from the legislators before going to Obama. The president wants a bill on his desk this year to take advantage of the momentum of his new administration and avoid the thornier political climate of mid-term congressional elections in 2010.

Filed under: Congress • Health care • Obama administration • Popular Posts
soundoff (46 Responses)
  1. trueblue

    If the Democrats can't pass meaningful Health Care Reform this year, the country will show that it is ungovernable-like California. It won't be just Health Care that doesn't get done but also Climate Change, Education, Finance Reform, etc. We may not collapse this year or next year, but the description Joe Biden gave of Russia as a failing country stuck in the past will apply to us.

    July 26, 2009 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  2. annie s

    Oh well. We're dead in the water. A :"bipartisan" bill essentially means a watered down bit of nonsense that will keep health insurance 100% in the for-profit insurers hands. In other words, no reform at all. Without a public option, anything you may offer us amounts to more of the same. More people unable to afford coverage. More people filing bankruptcy due to medical bills. More people who think they have good insurance being kicked to the curb when they develop a catastrophic illness. More small businesses unable to add employees because they can't afford health benefits. Shame on our legislators, shame on the Blue Dog Democrats. Shame on America.

    July 26, 2009 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  3. Post always rejected by CNN

    Of course republicans are not going to support this bill. They do not want the democrats to do anything to help this country. ALL they can do is hurt it. If they wanted to make sure we were again the leaders of the world, that we had a booming economy they would try to help. Instead all they do is jump up and down and yell no no no no no. They helped bush ruin it, they voted for every scheme that the previous republican administration hatched. The approved 8 trillion dollars to get us in debt to begin with. And that's not counting what they approved for the Iraqi war because the war cost were not counted in any debt.

    But you would think that they are now the most fiscal responsible people in the world. Of course if the health care bill would in some way shovel money into their pockets and the pockets of the health and drug companies they wouldn't need to take the little blue pill for a month, they would get their rush from that.

    July 26, 2009 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  4. harry

    This is the most monumental piece of legislation since the 1930's and Obama says do it immediately. What's the rush? There must be more to this bill than the media is letting out.

    July 26, 2009 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  5. jules sand-perkins

    There is no "God-given" right to housing, food and health insurance. I work for those for myself; so should every other person. If one can't find somebody to give him a job, he needs to make a job for himself. There is no reason that I should pay for another person's health care. The reason that I should not is that there wouldn't be enough monen for both of us to have good health care, since he chose not to bring anything, or enough, to the party.

    July 26, 2009 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  6. gl, Pittsburgh

    We don't need any Republcans to hyjack the Health Care Plan like they did the Stimulus and made it too small and now they are blaming President Obama. Please do not let the Republicans hyjack this plan and give the American People some weak plan. Any plan won't do. We have 60 Democratic Senator so do your job we the people want government public option health care plan and nothing less.

    July 26, 2009 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  7. America Shrugged

    I'm smelling some hypocracy here..Why all the sudden is a public health option which would compete with private insurers be such a bad thing?

    July 26, 2009 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  8. RandyT

    Are you joking, "without the Republican support?" They and conservative Dems have had 30 years and can't get anythiong done in the health care area. They are all bought by big money of the health industry and all have their own healthc care and don't give two cents for anyone making under a million a year.

    July 26, 2009 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  9. Ronald Schwartz

    Government health care is not the answer and nieter is limiting seniors because of age or illness. every one will get old and then they become a number,Not in my America.

    July 26, 2009 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  10. Kellen

    It's Bush's fault...
    Oh wait...the Dems control Congress.
    I see the Dems have arrived back to their usual problem.
    Having a strong leader; and no clear direction of where they collectively want to go!

    July 26, 2009 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  11. April in Texas

    Americans need health care reform.. Any with a pre condition must be rich to obtain health care and sadly illnesses happens to all poor and rich. I will remember come every election and will make my voice heard. Congress shouldnt get free health care if normal citizens cant even pay for decent health care.

    July 26, 2009 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  12. jim from the OC

    Give it a break Pelosi – America has lost interest in you and your control driven healthcare plan!!

    July 26, 2009 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  13. gl, Pittsburgh

    Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky told CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday that none of his fellow Republicans in the chamber supported the public insurance option.

    We know that all ready. The is what the American People want and we don't take orders from a party we voted out of office. You blue Dog are also sold out to the Health Care Industry. We need to vote all you fools out that do not listen to the people that voted you in office.

    July 26, 2009 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  14. Eick

    Oh boy–I think Republicans are a big coward. President Obama is very brave to have health care to pass soon. I want something different. I like what I see Obama is really care about our people. He really good listen to them. He is our hopeful. I still believe in him. Please spread everywhere in United States to call the republicans a big coward. BIG COWARD!!!!!

    July 26, 2009 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  15. MillerJ

    Oh those funny, wacky libs. You squawk about how you've now got a filibuster-proof majority and that you don't need the Republicans, and now suddenly you come to the realization that not every senator with a (d) after their name will fall in line with Obama and Reid. Oh well.

    July 26, 2009 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  16. SteveNy

    I don't understand why the Democrats are against limilting medical lawsuit payoffs. This is a killer, it drives the health costs way up.
    If you compare our lawsuits with other countries we are way out of whack. The press needs to put pressure on this by explaining the reason(s). Is it that the lawyers are against it because the Senate is full of lawyers. Lawyers get asronomical settelements in medical lawsuits. Sounds like this is a simple solution, limit the payoffs which the majority of the voting public support and in turn reduce health costs. .

    July 26, 2009 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  17. Zero.

    Do not tell Obama's Flower Power how to live in the 21st Century..

    July 26, 2009 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  18. phoenix86

    Americans should expect a power grab with massive deficits from the democrats. Any republican who votes for this should be removed from office on the spot.

    Democrats will wait their turn for removal in 2010.

    Bye-bye democratic majority. Hello a return to sanity.

    Oblamya- One and Done.

    July 26, 2009 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
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