WASHINGTON (CNN) - A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid insists to CNN that a decision to go it alone on health care has not been made, but Jim Manley also warned that Democrats are ready to use "any legislative means necessary" to pass health care.
"The White House still prefers a bipartisan bill, and neither the White House nor the Democratic leadership has made a decision to pursue reconciliation," he said Wednesday. "We will not make a decision to pursue reconciliation until we have exhausted efforts to produce a bipartisan bill. However, patience is not unlimited and we are determined to get something done this year by any legislative means necessary."
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/08/19/art.crist.0819.jpg caption="Crist holds on to primary lead as appointment questions linger."]
(CNN) - A new poll suggests Florida Gov. Charlie Crist is holding on to a clear advantage over his Republican primary opponent in next year's Senate race. But it's far from clear who he'll be facing – or replacing.
On Tuesday, GOP Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart declined a Crist invitation to submit a formal application for the seat being vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Mel Martinez, who is stepping down early. Several candidates reportedly remain in the running, including state Rep. Jennifer Carroll, who met with the governor Wednesday and plans to apply for the post. If Carroll were appointed, she would be the first black Republican woman to serve in the U.S. Senate, and the only African-American member of the GOP in the current Congress.
Crist - who continues to hold a sizeable cash advantage over the former speaker of the state's House of Representatives, Marco Rubio – is maintaining a similar edge in the Quinnipiac survey released Wednesday.
Fifty-five percent of Florida's registered Republicans said that they would back Crist in the GOP Senate primary – more than double the 26 percent behind Rubio, who's counting on strong support from a conservative base unhappy with the National Republican Senatorial Committee's early decision to back the governor's Senate bid. Eighteen percent remain undecided.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, dismissed Democratic criticism Wednesday that it increasingly appears he doesn't want any health care deal at all - a key point Democrats have been making to justify the possibility of going it alone, without GOP votes.
"I've said all year that something as big and important as health care legislation should have broad-based support," Grassley told CNN. "So far, no one has developed that kind of support, either in Congress or at the White House. That doesn't mean we should quit. It means we should keep working until we can put something together that gets that widespread support."
Top Democrats close to the White House have told CNN the Obama administration is looking hard at pushing through a health-care reform bill without Republican backing.
UPDATE, 1 p.m.: Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus released a statement Wednesday saying negotiations remained on track.
"Bipartisan progress continues," said Baucus. "The Finance Committee is on track to reach a bipartisan agreement on comprehensive health care reform that can pass the Senate. Our group will be meeting tomorrow and our staffs continue to meet as well. I am confident we will continue our steady progress toward health care reform that will lower costs and provide quality, affordable coverage to all Americans."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - As President Barack Obama's health care reform proposals face opposition this month at town halls across the country, a new poll indicates Americans' opinions of the president's plans, and of how he's handling the issue, have not changed.
More than six in ten people questioned in an NBC News survey released Tuesday say coverage in the media of the town hall protests have not changed their feelings regarding the president's health care proposals. Nineteen percent said the coverage makes them feel less favorable of Obama's plans, and 16 percent say more favorable.
The poll suggests that Americans are divided on whether the protests have been helpful to the debate over health care reform, with 43 percent saying they've done more harm than good and 42 percent saying more good than harm.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/08/19/art.trumka0819.gi.jpg caption="AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has issued a statement about health care reform and the public health insurance option."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Just a few days after warning Democratic lawmakers that failure to support a public option might cost them union support, AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer and incoming President Richard Trumka released a statement repeating the threat and promising to keep the heat on Congress and the Obama administration to support a government-run insurance option in the final version of the health care bill.
"We will be looking at every one of their votes and whether they are holding to their campaign promises," said Trumka Wednesday. "If they are against the public option and other key issues to working families such as the Employee Free Choice Act it is going to be tough for them to get support from working people."
Undecided Democratic members of Congress have faced ads and grassroots pressure from both the left and right this summer. Much of the liberal pressure has come from the Health Care for America Now coalition, which includes the AFL-CIO, and Organizing for America, President Obama's campaign arm at the Democratic National Committee.
Earlier this week, former Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean said Democratic members of Congress who opposed a public option could expect primary challenges next year.
(Full statement after the jump)
Photo credit: Pete Souza/White House
The White House released a photo showing President Obama debriefing former President Bill Clinton on Tuesday. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said in a statement shortly after the meeting that the president and Clinton met for 40 minutes in the White House's Situation Room to discuss the former president's recent trip to North Korea that resulted in the release of jailed journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee. Gibbs said then Obama invited Clinton to the Oval Office for another half hour of discussion about the trip.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/08/19/health.care/art.charles.grassley.gi.jpg caption="Democrats say Republicans, particularly Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, aren't serious about striking a deal."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Obama administration is looking hard at pushing through a health care reform bill without Republican backing, top Democrats close to the White House have told CNN.
The Democratic majority in the Senate has been stymied in the health care debate by Republicans and conservative Democrats, leaving them short of the 60-vote "filibuster-proof" margin needed to pass the bill.
Democratic success could depend on an obscure tactic called reconciliation, a type of budget maneuver that requires only a simple majority - 51 votes - to pass.
Going it alone could be risky for Democrats, not because they couldn't raise the votes, but because Republicans could cast it as a power play, accusing them of failing to win bipartisan support. But it's a fight Democrats might be willing to enter.
"If we have to push it through this way, no one is going to remember how messy it was," a top White House adviser told CNN. "At the end of the day, they'll remember we got health care reform done. A win is a win."
White House officials are beginning to lay the groundwork for such a move, telling CNN that they'll have to take drastic measures if there's no movement.
Sources from the administration and the Democratic side of Capitol Hill have told CNN that they're becoming increasingly convinced that Republicans - particularly Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley - involved in the negotiating process aren't serious about striking a deal.
CNN Correspondent Jim Acosta was on the scene at the Frank town hall. Listen:
(CNN) - Most Congress members conducting town hall meetings this month have chosen a noncombative posture to deal with angry participants who disrupt the proceedings. Not Rep. Barney Frank.
At a lively two-hour meeting Tuesday night in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, Frank gave as good as he got in confronting opponents of overhauling the nation's health care system.
The crowded hall had both supporters and detractors, but the opposing side was much louder and more raucous, booing the Massachusetts Democrat from the moment he was introduced and shouting questions and challenges at him throughout.
"You want me to talk about it or do you want to yell?" he asked over and over when interrupted while trying to answer. Continued shouting brought a sterner rebuke.
"Disruption never helps your cause," he said more than once. "It just looks like you're afraid to have rational discussion."
While Frank attempted to respond to all questions, he gave up when one woman compared health care proposals favored by Frank and President Obama to policies of Nazi Germany.