February 4th, 2010
07:00 PM ET
13 years ago

Obama calls for health care compromise, then vote

Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama called Thursday for high-level talks with Republicans to work out a compromise on health care legislation, then putting the resulting bill to a vote in Congress.

"If Congress decides we're not going to do it, even after all the facts are laid out, after all the options are clear, then the American people can make a judgment as to whether this Congress has done the right thing for them or not," Obama said. "That's how democracy works."

Obama's comments were the first clear signal from the White House or Democrats in Congress on how they would proceed on a top legislative priority after losing their 60-seat super-majority in the Senate.

Republican Scott Brown was sworn in as the new U.S. senator from Massachusetts earlier Thursday, leaving the Democrats one vote shy of being able to overcome GOP filibusters of health care reform and other major initiatives.

Asked at a party fund-raising event about the Democratic strategy for health care reform going forward, Obama said Democratic leaders in the House and Senate were working out differences in the separate health care bills passed by each chamber last year.

Once that was finished, Obama said, the next step would be "to call on our Republican friends to present their ideas."

"What I'd like to do is to have a meeting whereby I'm sitting with the Republicans, sitting with the Democrats, sitting with health care experts, and let's just go through these bills - their ideas, our ideas - and walk through them and in a methodical way so that the American people can see and compare," Obama said.

"And then I think we've got to go ahead and move forward on a vote," he added. "We've got to move forward on a vote."

Democrat leaders in Congress have struggled to come up with a consensus strategy since the party lost its super-majority in the Senate. Republicans have unanimously opposed the health care bills so far, meaning Democrats would be unable to pass a bill through the Senate because of a certain GOP filibuster.

Brown, now the 41st Republican senator to give the GOP its unstoppable filibuster ability, said Thursday after his swearing-in that Congress should start over on the health care issue instead of continuing to work on existing proposals.

Republicans complain the comprehensive Democratic health care bills would lead to a government takeover of health care. They call for smaller steps focused on individual issues, such as limiting medical malpractice lawsuits.

Democrats, however, say that spiraling health care costs that threaten the nation's future economic stability can only be addressed through comprehensive reform.

Obama said Thursday the Democratic bill that will emerge from the House-Senate talks on joining their two proposals would expand coverage to at least 30 million Americans who currently lack health insurance while reducing long-term health care costs.

The measure would include an insurance exchange to allow people and small business owners to pool together to purchase coverage, Obama said, but he made no mention of a government-run public health insurance option that Republicans have rallied against.

Obama said the Democratic bill would include reforms that prevent insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing medical conditions or capping lifetime benefits.

"And by the way, all of it is paid for," Obama said. "Not only is it deficit-neutral, but the Congressional Budget Office, which is the bipartisan office that is the scorekeeper for much things cost in Congress, says it is going to reduce the costs by $1 trillion."

Obama called health care reform the "single best way to bring down our deficits," adding "nobody has disputed that."

"Nobody can dispute the fact that if we don't tackle surging health care costs, then we can't control our budget," he said.

While Democrats from both chambers have been working together to merge their two bills, alternative strategies also have been discussed. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said this week that the chamber would vote next week on one provision of its health care bill, which would drop the current anti-trust exemption for the insurance industry that allows practices such as market allocation.

The Senate bill would maintain the anti-trust exemption, so it was unclear if the House's limited first step would win approval there. However, Democratic aides have said that House Democrats want to keep momentum on health care going in coming weeks.

Filed under: Health care • President Obama
soundoff (33 Responses)
  1. Jobless Recovery

    Our "Campaigner in Chief" is nothing more than a narcissist who, unable to shove this trillion dollar obamacare down the people's throats, is now forced begrudgingly to pretend he's interested in non-DNC ideas that WILL reduce costs like medical malpractice changes/tort reform. Trial Lawyers fill DNC coffers so that has been OFF the table to date. Go figure?
    BHO should not give another long eloquent speech until the $800B stimulus 2 has reduced unemployment to 8% as ol crazy Joe Biden promised. Stop campaigning Barack & stay in Wash for a few days & do the job we elected you to do....you won the campaign so get to work please.

    February 4, 2010 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  2. Dem TIl death

    Let's see what our Republican friends have to say. First I want to see COST CONTAINMENT...........

    February 4, 2010 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  3. Dem TIl death

    Also I would like to see Congress address the fairness of a so called "healthcare system" that charges patients $100+ for a 10 min. office visit when many working persons only make $300-$400 per week.I really hope Congress gets the anger so many of us feel.

    February 4, 2010 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  4. Sam Sixpack

    When Pelosi & friends are done putting the icing on their cake, THEN we'll ask for your input. Yeah, right.

    February 4, 2010 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  5. Dave

    This offers everyone a fresh start. A chance for everyone to put all of their best, intelligent input forward. Everyone needs to come with constuctive ideas and a fresh sense of determination and respect for each other as Americans. We need desperately to be proud of America and all of her representatives. Everyone please leave your Party biases behind. Both parties. Please be all individual proud Americans who come together with respect, dignity and humility regardless of the outcome. Lets be together and be proud to be an American family. Lets get this job done one way or the other then join hands and sing "God Bless America".

    February 4, 2010 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  6. Sam Sixpack

    Perhaps he thinks most people are so stupid that he can still get by with the gibberish.

    February 4, 2010 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  7. Wesley in the West

    Republicasn will do their best to discourage any kind of accomplishment.

    February 4, 2010 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  8. ib

    This is just another front; Obama has no intentions of working with the republicans on anything. All he uses them for to blame them for his failures.

    February 4, 2010 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
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