July 29th, 2009
01:31 PM ET
13 years ago

House Dems reach deal on heath care bill

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/07/29/art.mikeross0729.gi.jpg caption="Rep. Mike Ross announced that a group of fiscally conservative Democrats has reached a deal with House Democratic leaders on a health care reform bill."]WASHINGTON (CNN) - A group of fiscally conservative House Democrats announced Wednesday they reached a deal with the chamber's Democratic leaders on a health care reform bill.

Rep. Mike Ross of Arkansas, speaking for the so-called Blue Dog Democrats, said the agreement calls for the House Energy and Commerce Committee to begin debating the bill later Wednesday, but for no vote by the full House until after the upcoming August congressional recess.

Ross and the Blue Dogs had threatened to derail the bill in the Energy and Commerce Committee due to concerns that it cost too much and failed to address systemic problems in the nation's ailing health care industry.

The Energy and Commerce Committee is one of three House committees that needs to pass the bill before it is voted on by the full chamber. The other two committees have already cleared it.

The deal was announced as President Barack Obama hit the road to build more public support for reform, telling a North Carolina audience that a failure to fix the system now will have catastrophic consequences in the years ahead.

If Congress fails to act soon, he warned a Raleigh town hall audience, health costs will double over the next decade, make millions more Americans uninsured, and bankrupt government on both the state and federal level.

The president accused his critics of mischaracterizing his plan as a government takeover of health care.

"No one is talking about some government takeover," he said. "I'm tired of hearing that. ... These folks need to stop scaring everybody."

He also brushed aside criticism that the plan is being rushed through Congress without adequate time for review and debate.

Congressmen will have plenty of time to read the bill, Obama insisted. Noting that Congress won't finish deliberating the legislation until after its August recess, Obama said he'd be willing to invite any representative or senator over to the White House to review the bill "line by line."

The president is slated to make a similar health care pitch later Wednesday to an audience in rural Virginia - a region typically hostile to national Democratic leaders.

Phil Younce, a frozen food clerk at a Kroger supermarket in the town of Bristol, where Obama will speak, told CNN he fears health reform is being rushed, just like the stimulus.

"Like the last package that we pushed through, I think it was too hurried, and a lot of mistakes, a lot of things that shouldn't be," said Younce, who voted for Republican candidate John McCain in the presidential election.

But assistant produce manager Cathy Montgomery, who voted for Obama, said she's excited the president is getting tough with Congress.

"I like the fact that he's stepped up, and he's being aggressive, I really do. I mean, I'm all for that," she said.

Bristol, which is near the Tennessee border, is also where Obama kicked off his general election campaign after defeating Hillary Clinton in the primaries.

Thousands in the area showed up at a health expo offering free medical care over the weekend, exposing a problem all too familiar to doctors in the region.

"Clearly, we all recognize - any physician in the hospital would recognize - that it's a system in crisis," said Dr. Bennett Cowan.

But like most employees at the Kroger supermarket, produce manager Steve Shipplett gets generous health benefits.

Even though he voted for Obama, he's nervous those benefits may be taxed to cover the uninsured. He demanded more specifics from the president.

Obama's "going to have to spit out some numbers and let the public know exactly what it's going to cost them and what they're going to have to give up," he said.

Shipplett added, however, that if the president successfully steps up and sells his plan, then he's willing to step up, too.

"We've got to do something, and if it means me paying these taxes to get this reform through I would begrudgingly do it, yes," he said.

Younce said he is ready to do his share, too.

"No matter what kind of plan you are going to come up with, somebody has to pay for it. So eventually, it comes down to us - the people that's working and paying taxes. We're going to have to pay for it one way or another. I just hope we can come up with a plan that is worth paying for," he said.

- CNN's Dana Bash and Ed Henry contributed to this report.

(Updated at 1:30 p.m. with additional information)

Filed under: Congress • Health care
soundoff (90 Responses)
  1. Susie

    Mr. Ohbomba seems more concerned about BEER drinking with his new lawbreaker friend than promoting HEALTHY 'chatting'. Also he'll likely be SMOKING too. And HE's working on HEALTH issues???? Wow, "come on over' we'll drink some BEER!!!! That's a HEALTHY message!!!

    July 29, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  2. andrea

    what kind of a deal? where is the beef?

    July 29, 2009 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  3. Gary

    Well we'll have to see what this compromise looks like. We can't have more government insurance, we gotta have malpractice reform, we need more doctors/nurses/physicial therapists and we definitely do not want new taxes.....If the compromise doesn't include those elements it will be a failure. If my "Blue Dog" rep votes for a bill that raises taxes or has a government insurance then I simply will not vote for him again.

    First Sen Spector disappointed me by voting for a Pork bill that they tried to convince us was stimulus (so I will not vote for him), now it is up to Tim Holden to hold the line on taxes and government insurance.

    July 29, 2009 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  4. CF

    As long as there is a public option. Without that, what's the point?

    July 29, 2009 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  5. GOP lover boy hater

    I know how much the conservative blowhards just hate the idea of the Dems coming together with a plan.

    Scare tactics by the GOP and Faux News.....nah.........that is the only thing they know how to do .....ol Gingrich, Delay and now Limprick and hannity.

    Work for Americans.............GOP you always work for Big Business.

    Name one piece of legislation that the GOP has helped the US with in the last decade.........the silence is deafening!!!!!!!

    when is the GOP going to get a clue...........when the South rises again??? I think not!

    July 29, 2009 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  6. kapinatl

    Take the "blue" out and call them for what they really are, "dogs". There is no such animal as a "conservative democratic", just another code name for a pseudo-republican.

    July 29, 2009 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  7. xargaw

    Everytime we see Congressman Ross speaking about healthcare reform, let us not forget how much money he has accepted from the healthcare industry. Whose interest is Congressman Ross representing?

    July 29, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  8. Sick -n- Tired

    How many "recesses", breaks, and vacations do these people need in a year? I don't recall approving any of this! I mean, I'm a taxpayer, why didn't anyone consult with me first? The point I'm trying to make is, The Government is elected by the taxpayer, for the taxpayer, and is also PAID by the taxpayer, so I guess that kinda makes the taxpayer the "BOSS" in a round about sorta way. Right? Which in turn, would kinda make me one of your bosses, so my question is, WHY DIDN"T I GET A COPY OF THE MEMO on AMERI-CORP's "vacation" policy??????????

    July 29, 2009 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  9. SA in OO

    And this my friends is the way the system is supposed to work.

    Personally I prefer the idea of a single payer plan. The convoluted way in which or employer based approach has evolved, with so many stakeholders making so much money off the existing system, made single payer a non-starter in the U.S.

    But if you can get a majority support for a plan that will actually start to bring our commitment to universal health care in line with every other civilized country (and some that aren't so civilized) it's a start. The plan will evolve over time and we can fix the glitches later.

    July 29, 2009 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  10. David

    Having Rational and Fiscally Conservative Democrats along with Progressive Democrats makes it ever more obvious that the Extremist and Obstructionist GOP has no purpose in our government.

    Checks and Balance is what we need from our government, not obstruction and self interest. Conservative and Progressive Democrats we will get Health Care Reform Done for AMERICANS!!!

    July 29, 2009 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  11. Don E. Wuerl

    You so called "Blue Dogs" have simply bowed to corporate hounds! How many people are going to have less than adequate insurance when they have a catastrophic injury/illness? The whole idea of universal healthcare is to keep all of us out of bankrupcy and get the most industialized country upto speed with the rest of the covered world-its only the right thing to do! DUH!!!

    July 29, 2009 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  12. Sniffit

    Fact: it's not the POTUS who's using scare tactics and the rhetoric of fear. He's telling it like it is. We are absolutely effed if we don't do something very very soon about the skyrocketing costs of health care and the failure of the health care industry to behave according to "free market" principles...e.g., by exhibiting inflation that is 3-4 times greater than inflation in the rest of the market.

    The people really using fear rhetoric are the GOPers, who have done NOTHING but try to scare everyone into believing that ANY universal health care option (specifics don't matter to these people) will result in rationing of care, decreased quality of and access to care, and crazy eugenic nonsense like telling grandma she's too old for medical care and should start shopping around for caskets. Total garbage.

    July 29, 2009 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  13. judesuper

    It's about time! But don't forget, if we don't get a public option, you guys are still out in 2010.

    July 29, 2009 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  14. gl, From Pittsburgh

    It is long over do. I bet that email today had a lot to do with their swift change of mind. Thanks CNN!

    July 29, 2009 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
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