January 13th, 2010
08:09 PM ET
13 years ago

Democrats hold intense day-long negotiations on health care bills


[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/01/13/art.bocu0113.gi.jpg caption=" President Barack Obama has made clear he favors the Senate Democrats' approach - taxing high cost insurance plans - to help pay for health care reform."]
Washington(CNN) - What was expected to be a morning meeting with the president on health care turned into all-day, intense negotiations with Democratic leaders trying to find compromise on differences over House and Senate health care bills.

The meetings did not finally wrap up until after 6:30 p.m. ET.

Senior congressional Democratic sources told CNN that the White House is pushing them hard to move quickly to resolve differences on a broad range of issues. The president and his top aides are being more aggressive than ever before in trying to broker a deal.

Though Democratic leaders and White House officials are tight-lipped about specifics, there is a deep House-Senate Democratic divide over how to pay for health care reform.

"Today we made significant progress in bridging the remaining gaps between the two health insurance reform bills," President Barack Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in a joint statement Wednesday evening.

"We're encouraged and energized, and we're resolved to deliver reform legislation that provides more stability and security for those with insurance, extends coverage to those who don't have coverage, and lowers costs for families, businesses and governments."

Obama has made clear he favors the Senate Democrats approach - taxing high cost insurance plans. That has caused an eruption inside unions who oppose that approach.

Several sources said that labor union representatives were also at the White House Wednesday, their second round of meetings there this week.

Many House Democrats who worry the tax would hit too many middle class Americans also oppose that approach, and have been quite vocal about their frustration.

A House Democratic leadership aide conceded to CNN that the White House is pushing House Democrats to make a deal fast, saying "The speaker is also pushing for one, but won't just accept the Senate deal," he said, referring to Pelosi.

The meeting lasted from about 10:30 a.m. ET until about 6:40 p.m., according to White House spokesman Reid Cherlin. Obama attended most of the meeting, but was in and out because of the situation in Haiti following a 7.0-magnitude earthquake. Vice President Joe Biden and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius both attended portions of the meeting, Cherlin said.

Rep. Rob Andrews, D-New Jersey, was not in the meetings, but was briefed by leaders on the House floor when they came back briefly for votes Wednesday afternoon.

He told reporters that there was discussion about a range of issues, including ideas to change the Senate's proposed Cadillac tax on high end insurance plans - to make it more palatable to House Democrats and unions.

"What I believe you will see is a lessening of the tax's impact on a broad subset of people," Andrews said.

But Andrews said there is no agreement yet on how to do this, though several ideas on the table include raising the threshold, changing the index, or carving out some types of plans currently hit by the tax.

The Senate plan taxes insurance plans for families that cost $23,000 and higher. Democratic sources have said a leading idea is to raise that, in the hopes of affecting fewer workers that get high-cost plans through their employers.

Andrews said he believes the president's involvement is key to finalizing a deal.

"The president's always been willing to find the consensus point. It's pretty clear that that requires some change in the excise tax to get a majority in the House."

Andrews said Democratic negotiators were also discussing a way to expand the Senate's Medicare payroll tax to make up lost revenue from dropping the House surcharge on the wealthy. "It's more practical and easy to build on something the Senate has already done," he said.

The extended White House meeting forced Pelosi and other leaders to miss the kick off of their own annual legislative retreat. Google CEO Eric Schmidt was scheduled to address House Democrats Wednesday night at the Library of Congress.

Filed under: Congress • Democrats • Health care
soundoff (39 Responses)
  1. Eric

    As an advocate of health reform, after having read both the house and senate version, I have to say that both bills suck. The house version really nails you if your family makes more than $1.25 million. The senate version nails you much harder if you make between $250,000 and $1 million. Both will hurt you if you're currently getting extra benefits through a Medicare HMO. The house version has a bunch of convoluted savings from unusual sources. The senate is a blatant wealth transfer from states with a large urban component to rural states. Both plans are going to put the small community non-profit HMOs – the ones that try the hardest to serve their members – out of business. The abortion provisions and non-coverage of non-citizens are red-neck sellouts. It's a shame that self-serving jerks like Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman screwed this up. The worst part is the missed opportunity – the cost of the world's pharma research continues to be the burden of fixed income seniors in the United States.

    January 13, 2010 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  2. Mr Right

    The Left is determined to tear down the country through onerous new taxes and huge inefficent govenment. They pretend to save the country by promising to take care of the sick who would be against that? Only those evil conservatives.
    But if you look at the facts you cannot spend yourself into prosperity and you cannot carry the country on the backs of the middle class, that is excatly what the Health care reform LIE will do.
    Believe what you want, but so far tthe extreme left is taking us in a direction any one with common sense can see will be the road to ruin and will take generations to recover, if we can at all.
    13 – 14 trillion in debt and climbing, time to cut up the credit cards and stop spending.....

    January 13, 2010 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  3. Four and The Door

    Don't you just love this administration and congress's approach to creating the program? Don't figure out how to pay for it or who's going to pay for it until the very end. As if they really give a hoot anyway. Cost and performance is somebody else's problem. Well, a whole bunch of somebody's who are all probably 12 years old right now. The important thing in Washington now is to cram something through quickly and be able to say how historic their Public Service has been!

    January 13, 2010 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  4. Reggie

    What about transperancy, Obama? Let CSPAN video tape these discussions, as you promised during the campaign.

    January 13, 2010 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  5. valwayne

    Despite promise after promise after promise after promise afer promise by Obama that these negotiations would be on C-SPAN we read about the corruption going on behind closed doors and that's all we know. Broken promises and lies! Lies and Broken promises!!!

    January 13, 2010 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  6. vwrtb

    Can someone explain to me what. Union boss and union thug are.. Do you think Al capone and Jimmy hoffa are still alive to... Listen all dinosaur republicans.. The laws have changed since then and the unions have no power anymore! That's the problem... everybody else ... Support your unions and help rebuild the middle class!

    January 13, 2010 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  7. Barry

    Unfortunately, our president has fooled us all. He campaigned as a pragmatic moderate. The truth is, he is an angry, bully of an extreme leftist liberal. Myself and other independent voters are running away as fast as we can.

    January 13, 2010 11:13 pm at 11:13 pm |
  8. Johnny DC

    Translation: It doesn't matter what we pass, what it fixes, or how we could possibly pay for it. All that matters is that we pass something and claim victory.

    Reminds me of a certain campaign strategy: It doesn't matter what I promise, or who I pretend to want to unite, or the change and transparency I may or may not bring to Washington. All that matters is that I fool you into giving me your vote and claim victory.

    January 13, 2010 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  9. Brendan H., San Antonio, TX

    I hope you all note that it's the Democrats that are holding the meetings to get this done, and when it's done, it will be the forward-thinking nabobs of the GOP that will criticize it.

    Funny thing, like their over-the-top slating of Social Security, their supporters will be the first to line up for it, too!

    The Republicans criticize anything that helps the common man, yet they didn't invite anybody to the closed-dorr meetings leading tothe run-up in Iraq, when they made it possible for fearless, Jet-Pilot to get unfettered access to do anything he wanted based on a whim! And how did that work out, GOP?!

    January 13, 2010 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  10. J.V.Hodgson

    Too much gossip around reconciling the senate and House bills and not enough on at least attempting to get some Republican support, theu the abortion issue,liability caps and cross state competition for existing Private insurers, and if possible re -visiting the Ban on outside US medications that are cheaper.
    No mention of the real problem either which is Nebraska Pork in particular, ( and others less egregious) but I suspect House democrats and Republicans will vote that down anyway, and then the Senate will say we tried but failed. At that point it would be a very brave Nebraska Senator who could, assuming he sticks to his guns, potentially bring the whole democratic government down.

    January 13, 2010 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  11. Biased

    At this point Obama doesn't care what's in it as long as he gets something before his state of the union for his own bragging rights. What's in it and who supports it or who gets trampled on in the rush to further buy votes, or how much it will cost is secondary now and doesn't matter as long as something is passed and in a hurry. Obama must be really scared to think about the fact that his 60th vote in the Senate may soon disappear......................

    January 14, 2010 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  12. Mike in SA

    Yes Dems, please line up in an orderly fashion. The dump trucks full of money have arrived and we are ready to start handing out the agreed to back-room political payoffs. No need to push, if you're a Democrat then there is plenty for you all!

    January 14, 2010 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
  13. Albert K. L.A., CA

    all-day, intense negotions? "The meeting lasted from about 10:30 a.m. ET until about 6:40 p.m." Minus lunch that is not even an 8 hour work day. Somebody needs to slap these people and make them get it done and move-on with creating jobs. If they fail on either task they will loose big in November. If they win big n November they can revisit health care reform and clean-up what needs to be ploished, i.e., public option.

    January 14, 2010 12:51 am at 12:51 am |
  14. obama lacks ........ everything!

    Please no health care nobody wants it I don't know a single person who wants let it go!

    January 14, 2010 02:56 am at 2:56 am |
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