January 7th, 2010
08:28 PM ET
13 years ago

House Democrats object to Senate health provisions

Washington (CNN)- Rank and file House Democrats Wednesday objected to some key provisions in the Senate health care bill during a wide-ranging conference call led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other leaders. Over 100 Members participated in the call meant to update Democrats on health care negotiations.

Among the concerns, according to sources who participated in the call, were the special Medicaid deal Nebraska Democratic Senator Ben Nelson cut with Senate leaders and the Senate's excise tax on high end insurance plans to pay for reform.

Caucus Chairman John Larson, D-Connecticut, told reporters House Democrats will get a chance to discuss health care with President Obama directly next week, when he is scheduled to address their annual legislative retreat in Washington.

Several members on the call criticized the deal Sen. Nelson negotiated to cover his state's additional Medicaid costs that stem from expanding the program's coverage to more low income Americans.

Connecticut Democrat Rep Joe Courtney told CNN that Members told leaders "It's just unacceptable to treat states differently."

As House Democrats fumed about the deal, Senator Nelson announced Thursday that he is already talking to leaders about a way for the bill to cover additional Medicaid costs for all states.

"I've been in serious discussions with Senate leaders and others to secure changes in the bill to treat all states equally," Nelson said in written statement. "At the end of the day, whatever Nebraska gets will apply to all states."

Pelosi and other leaders agreed Nelson's provision would not be in the final bill, and stressed they would work to provide equity for all states on Medicaid funding, according to several sources on the call.

Courtney, who has been an outspoken critic of the Senate's excise tax on high cost insurance plans, said at least seven Members argued against accepting any version of it in a final bill. He told CNN some of these Members insisted they would vote against a bill that included it. But Courtney acknowledged that with the President and Senate Democrats pushing for the tax, some modified form could be acceptable. "I'm open to looking at any kind of ideas. There are a lot of moving pieces."

Because of the clash between the two chambers over how to pay for the bill, House and Senate Democrats are talking to the White House about alternatives, according to several aides.

Some Democrats on the call argued for a public option. But in recent days House leaders, who recognize there isn’t support in the Senate, have shifted their emphasis to keeping major insurance reforms in the bill and making health care more affordable.

Democratic leaders pledged on the call they would argue for a repeal of the anti-trust exemption for insurers, an issue that Rules Committee Chairwoman Louise Slaughter said she raised at a meeting on Wednesday with President Obama.

Members on the call also urged leaders to push the Senate and the White House to agree to setting up a national insurance exchange in the final bill, instead of the state-based exchanges in the Senate bill.

Pelosi repeated that a top priority is to boost subsidies to keep down out-of-pocket costs for low and middle class Americans.

After a barrage of criticism from Republicans and some Democrats this week about closed door negotiations on a final bill, Speaker Pelosi defended the process on the call.

"The Speaker stated, as she's stated before, that this has been most transparent issue of any issue that Congress has taken up," according to one Democratic aide who participated in the call.

Members also raised concerns about how to negotiate differences over abortion and immigration language, but leaders did not offer any decisions on how these items would be resolved.

Leaders scheduled another meeting with all House Democrats for next Tuesday evening, when the House reconvenes

soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. GOPer

    The Dems remind me of 20 skunks in a sack with a rattlesnake. All the skunks will emerge dead but not by the rattlesnake but, by killing each other.

    January 8, 2010 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
  2. Michael from Ventura

    Good for the House Dems and Nancy. The right may hate her, but that just means she's on the correct path!

    January 8, 2010 12:38 am at 12:38 am |
  3. Biased

    Yes, they will object to make themselves look good, and when it comes to the time that Pelosi will tell them to vote for it or else, they will all jump in line and vote yes, I am sure saying something like.."Even though this bill is flawed, it is better than no bill at all." Shall we see how close I come to their actual wording as they sell out their own constituents in order to make Obama look good in his state of the union address?

    January 8, 2010 12:45 am at 12:45 am |
  4. jules sand-perkins

    Don't just tax the income of successful Americans: tax their health-care insurance too, because nobody has a right to do enough hard work to buy good insurance.
    Nobody, in fact, is any better than anybody else, even if he works for his money while those around him (or her) watch television and chill on some good weed.
    The term "Cadillac insurance" itself is offensive to right-thinking, progressive persons: nobody needs a Cadillac, and certainly not one of those politically incorrect luxury imports that actually runs.

    January 8, 2010 02:02 am at 2:02 am |
  5. John in Indy

    how are we gonna pay for any of this? Free stuff for everyone sounds awesome, Washington picking up the Medicare tab sounds sweet, BUT, HOW ARE WE GONNA PAY FOR IT? even the most ardent libs gotta ask what are we doing?

    January 8, 2010 07:09 am at 7:09 am |
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