March 7th, 2010
11:24 AM ET
11 years ago

Retiring Dem: GOP doesn't want to dance on health care

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Retiring Rep. Brian Baird said Sunday that Republicans see health care reform as 'a potent political weapon.'"]
Washington (CNN) – A retiring House Democrat who is himself unsure whether he will back his own party’s health care reform bill criticized congressional Republicans Sunday for their lack of bipartisanship on the issue of health care.

“Tom DeLay was on ‘Dancing with the Stars,’” Rep. Brian Baird, D-Washington, said on CNN’s State of the Union, referring to the Republican former House Majority leader, who was also a guest on the show.

Later: DeLay explains turn on DWTS

“We don’t have a dance partner,” Baird said. “We don’t have someone on the other side who is seriously willing to say, ‘If you do these things, you will have our support.’ And the reason is they see it as such a potent political weapon.”

Assuming - as many in his party have recently – that the final health care reform legislation will get no Republican support, Baird defended use of a Senate procedural measure called reconciliation which allows certain budgetary bills in the Senate to be passed with just 51 votes.

“The choice you’re left with is a majority vote which I think most people think is how we ought to do things anyway,” Baird told CNN Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley. “And, secondly, the Republicans used reconciliation on multiple times including for the mother of all deficit increases, the Bush tax cuts.”

Baird previously voted against the health care reform bill that passed in the House. Now the Washington Democrat is trying to determine whether he will support a final bill based largely on the version passed by the Senate but modified slightly to address some issues of particular concern to the White House and House Democrats.

Related video: Dem unsure on health care

Baird, who was a practicing neuropsychologist before being elected to Congress, told Crowley he supports the idea of overhauling the health care system. “We have to do something and I actually applaud President Obama and the Democratic Party for taking this difficult challenge on,” he said.

“The question is: Is this the best way we can do reform?,” Baird said of his reservations. “It is very complicated. It will be expensive.” Baird quickly noted that both the House and the Senate bill would be largely paid for and have both been projected to reduce the deficit over time.

Baird said he would have approached crafting a bill “a good bit differently.”

“I would like to see us start and say ‘What are the things we can agree on?’”

The Democrat told Crowley he thought most Americans agree that “you should not discriminate against pre-existing conditions. I think it makes a lot of sense to be able to buy policies across state lines so you have competition and you can carry your policy with you if you move or lose your job.

“The complexity, I think, worries a lot of people,” Baird added.

Baird also said Sunday that he is not swayed by the notion of voting in favor the bill because his impending retirement means he will face no political consequences for supporting an unpopular piece of legislation.

“My personal struggle is, quite frankly, could we not do this in a much more simple, elegant, direct, straightforward way? I think we could. I doubt I’m going to get a chance to do that, so the difficult choice for some of us is to say: ‘This is not the bill I would write, by a darn sight, but it is certainly better than the status quo. What would we do if we don’t have this option?’”

Asked by Crowley whether he would vote against a final bill after determining it did not met his personal criteria even if that vote meant that one of the president’s top domestic agenda items would not pass, Baird did not hesitate: “Yes.”

But Baird quickly sought to clarify. The retiring Democrat said it would be “a tragedy” if some type of health care reform was not enacted. “And so that’s the choice. I don’t think this bill is what I would like to see us do if I ran the universe, as it were, but I don’t get to do that so the status quo is unsustainable.”

After a year of legislative work on health care reform on Capitol Hill, the White House has recently stepped in to try to move the process forward. Right now congressional Democrats are waiting for the administration to release final legislative language for a bill that would be put to a vote in both chambers through the reconciliation procedure. The bill crafted by the White House would contain a number of tweaks to the health care reform bill passed by the Senate late last year. In order to harmonize the provisions of the two separate bills passed by the House and Senate last year, the House will be asked to pass the Senate bill unchanged and then both chambers would be asked to vote on the White House bill.

Senate Democrats have had to fall back on the reconciliation process after losing the critical 60th vote in their caucus when Republican Scott Brown won a recent special election to occupy the seat held for decades by the late Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts.

Follow Martina Stewart on Twitter: @MMStewartCNN

Filed under: Democrats • Health care • House • Popular Posts • State of the Union
soundoff (130 Responses)
  1. Marc

    Richie in Mass – Democrats aren't like Republicans, dissention (even in major issues) is allowed without the man or woman who does that becoming to be considered a 'traitor of the cause'...
    Take a look at the article, the Dem who said those MIGHT not vote as the party wants.
    'POLITICAL PURITY' is a issue (hopefuly dead and buried) that was only seen in the Republicans block lately.

    March 7, 2010 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  2. Jacquie

    The Republicans have not negotiated in good faith. The Democrats tried hard to include them in the process, but they never got the memo, they lost the election. So they whip up their base with lies, and scare people into believing utter lies, because the agenda has nothing to do with the needs of the American people, it has more to do with taking down a President. This would have never happened if the Blue Dogs had been loyal to the President. Since they were not they should all be voted out. The Republicans had no power that the Dems didn't just hand them, and while they claim the Dems had a majority they really did not, because if you have a majority they get things done. So since the Republicans have not come to the table in good faith and have gotten away with it, this mess was set forth. I say the hell with them, pass the legislation, fix it through reconsilation and pass everything they can and train the Republicans that you can have a place at the table, but if you obstruct you get to be irrelevant. I'm sick of the lies and politics. Get this done so we can move on to creating jobs.

    March 7, 2010 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  3. vette gal

    It's too bad we can't get some rules changed. From our Presidential elections to getting bills passed, it should be majority rules. Democracy is majority rules. Reconciliation is nothing more than majority rules and that's the way everything should be done. Also personal criteria should not even come into being a factor in how they vote. Again, they forget it's not about their own personal views, but the veiws of the people and the majority of the populace want a national health plan with a public option.

    .....and that's why from now on, in every election, I will vote the incumbent out if they've been in office more than 8 years.

    March 7, 2010 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  4. leonardofru

    It is 100% clear that Obama and Democrats want no input from the American people. The "summit" showed that. Obama and Dems controlled the discussion time 2 to 1. And Obama behaved in a very unpresidential manner. That is how this process has worked from the beginning.

    March 7, 2010 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  5. John

    How the dems blame the republicans is flat out hilarious. The Democrats control Congress and the White House!!! You can spin this however you want....the bottom line is the fact the conflict resonates within the democratic party.... they all want to save their jobs this November.... and the public (read voters) doesn't want this bill. Blaming the republicans for not cooperating with what they want is a joke and everybody see through that....

    Put it this way..... whoever is in power has the responsibility stop with them... it's why the Republicans lost control of Congress and why they lost the White House..... the Democrats now enjoy the power... but with that power comes great responsibility..... it's obvious they are begining to realize this.... the public wants jobs. The Dems would be wise to address this.... otherwise.... they will enjoy great loss come November.

    March 7, 2010 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  6. liz

    The party of NO has made it abundantly clear they don't care if 40,000 American citizens die every year for lack of health care. they really should work to get it passed, then they could all affod heart and brain implants and become Democrats. i hope their callousness on this issue makes everyone in this country understand what these monsters are about, that they are only concerned with the rich and powerful and regaining power at all costs. This bill will be good for the American people. Democrats need to pull together and get this done because there will be hell to pay at the polls in November if they fail on this most crucial issue.

    March 7, 2010 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  7. Cando

    If the Republican's are worried about Democrat's never ever getting elected again if a Health care bill gets passed why aren't they encouraging them to get it passed? Could it be something else that they are worried about, like maybe the American people will like it????

    March 7, 2010 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  8. Marc

    The first bill presented by the Obama Administration had flaws that the CBO pointed out. The Republicans praised the CBO's work and bashed the bill.
    A few adjustments here and there and the bill was back, the CBO checked it and (while pointing out a new bunch of smaller/minor flaws that did not endanger the bill as a whole) said that it might end up working as the Obama Administration. The Republicans ignored the CBO's work and kept bashing the bill.
    Even if the Obama Administration scrap a new bill and this time the CBO says 'perfect job' what are the chances of the Republicans don't bash it?
    Next to zero?

    March 7, 2010 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  9. Eldrdridge

    It's plain and simple: Republicans are un-American, only in it for themselves. isn't it obvious?

    March 7, 2010 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  10. Albert R. K. . L.A., CA

    The filibuster, or “filibustero” from the Spanish meaning "pirate," is not in our Constitution. A group of Senators once made it part of the Senate rules which when used it allows nine Senators to seize Democracies “rule of the majority” (51 to 49 Senators) and hold it ransom until a treasure of pork is paid to the nine pirates who are allowed to act like mini-presidents threatening to veto the bill unless they are paid the ransom they demand, in order to grant their needed vote of 60 to 40. Even worst, when the minority Party in the Senate has at least 41 votes they can abuse the filibuster by stopping all Senate work and run a bogus election campaign crying about how the majority Party is unable to get anything done. As stated by Rep. Brian Baird, “they see it as such a potent political weapon.” But now the simple majority vote will show what a small minority the Republicans are and that they have no weapon, no power, and no respect because all they have done since they lost the election in 2008, is throw tantrums at thown halls, yell at our President during Congressional speeches and abuse the filibuster like a defiant spoiled brat sitting on the floor with their arms crossed and refusing to budge. During the health care summit last week, Obama gave the Republicans a clue of what is to come when he said, "Let me just make this point, John, because we're not campaigning anymore. The election is over." In other words, stop crying, you lost and we won, so let the majority run their house and not a spolied little brat!

    March 7, 2010 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  11. Michele

    The Medicaid cuts are not CUTS to the program...they are cuts to stop wasteful spending! I realize that the Republicans cannot tell the truth because they need the votes of seniors who depend on this GOVERNMENT run program for their health care, and most of them do not have the capacity to do any research, so they are easy targets for the hateful lies being spread. They are also of a generation that never thought a BLACK MAN could be elected President in THEIR white bread country, so they are very easy to manipulate. You ought to hear my inlaws (80 years old) rail against Obama, while they enjoy their tax cuts and their socialist health care plans. The root of this is two-fold. One, there is a racist element underlying the argument. Two, Rush told the Republicans "Obama must fail," so they fell in line like good little Nazi soldiers. This is absurd, were it not so sad. There is a facist takeover being started in this country, but Democrats have nothing to do with it.

    March 7, 2010 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  12. JohnRJ08

    The Senate is not a perfect bill. Neither is the House bill. But is our best and only chance of saving our terminally ill health care system. The idea that any Democrat senator would withhold his support of the bill because it doesn't do everything is preposterous. No bill of this size has ever failed to be amended and fine tuned in subsequent years. The Social Security Act of 1935 didn't even allow African-Americans to participate in the system when it first passed thanks to pressure from Southern Democrats who didn't want the status quo of racism in the south disturbed. That was rectified within just a few years. Rep. Baird's equivocation about the bill is disingenuous at best. He knows full well that if this bill fails the insurance industry will continue to destroy our health care system and our economy for at least another generation. The time to act is now. Baird is no better than that idiot, Bart "Simpson" Stupak, who is a radical anti-pro-choice religious zealot. Despite the existence of the Hyde Amendment, which forbids any government subsidizing of abortiion, Stupak wants any insurance company which covers abortion (even if the policy holder is not subsidized) blocked from participation in the insurance exchanges. In effect, this would erode the law of the land, Roe vs Wade, and Stupak knows it. These are politicians at their worst, who want their personal religious beliefs imposed on the entire country.

    March 7, 2010 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  13. jean2009

    If the GOP sees this as a potent issue for fall why is John McCain running around Arizona trying to play nice with seniors? Voted No on the Children's Health Insurance Program; No on Part D Medicare, and voted No on any other program that would help families. Even wanted to put Social Security in the stock he is every senior's savior and is going to protect their Social Security Medicare.

    The GOP is afraid something good will happen for the American people, and they will not look too good.

    Here is your potent issue...they are stuck dancing with the ones who brought them to the dance. They are bought and paid for by special interest lobbies that will have to change some really bad practices if this passes.

    Their next stop however is going out there and campaigning to not let someone take it away once it has passed. HYPOCRITES!

    We've talked this since Teddy Roosevelt.

    March 7, 2010 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  14. Rascal

    Here is a real wake up call. George Bush is no longer president. Candidate Obama campaigned hard to win the presidency so he could fix things according to the gospel of Obama. He wanted the job. He has the job. Do your job Mr. President. Quit whinning about what you CHOSE to inherit. Obviously governing is far more difficult than campaigning. Get to work on real fixes and quit belly aching.

    March 7, 2010 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  15. Mike

    Reconciliation is not a Senate procedure. It is a regular part of the annual budget process. Whether Reconciliation is a legitimate vehicle for ironing out differences in the earlier passed HCR is a legitimate debate, but acting like it's something new is really misleading.

    March 7, 2010 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  16. Michele

    "Cando March 7th, 2010 12:05 pm ET

    If the Republican's are worried about Democrat's never ever getting elected again if a Health care bill gets passed why aren't they encouraging them to get it passed? Could it be something else that they are worried about, like maybe the American people will like it????"

    Brilliant! You are so good!

    March 7, 2010 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  17. Eve

    I don't know anyone who is completely opposed to this health care bill (some with minor tweaks). The ones who are uncertain are generally unsure because they are afraid of it not working (based on the Republican's fear tactics ... good job, jacka$$es, not caring about what is best for America – regardless of who proposes it). I believe the Republicans also want the bill (with minor tweaks) but mostly they want it passed under their stewardship so they claim they care most (so much BS). I also totally agree with Realist's and Florence's opinions at 11:43am / March 7 and The Lady's at 11:37am / March 7.

    March 7, 2010 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  18. Sue


    The majority in the country does NOT want any version (house or senate) of Obamacare passed.

    People can just go to the Real Clear Politics site---which posts ALL polls--CNN, Pew, NY Times, Rasmussen, Gallup, etc.--to see that all polls show that the MAJORITY does not want any version of this health care Bill.

    The majority in the country does NOT want it. The majority in the country wants them to throw out the current senate/house versions of this health care Bill---and start all over with a transparent, bipartisan reform Bill.

    March 7, 2010 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  19. leonardofru

    Albert R.K. – Let the Dems force this through. And after the GOP regains control in November the God King Obama will not get a single thing he wants through Congress. If this bill passes Mr. Obama's administration will for all intents and purposes will have ended.

    March 7, 2010 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  20. Chris

    Well I see all the Right Wingers on here have repeated the talking points provided to them like the good little sheep they are. ("The Democrats are ramming the bill down our throats!" – "Americans dont want Health Care Reform" and "When the GOP used reconcillation it was completely different and how the Democrats want to use it.") I'm amazed that the Neo-Cons spend so many hours everyday with so many different pundits, when all they do is repeat the exact same hand full of talking points over and over. Sorry, "repeat" really is too tame a word for what Fox & company does. They *hammer* the same talking points again and again and again so their viewers can think of nothing else.

    Why is it whenever I watch Fox News I'm always reminded of the brain washing scene from "The Manchurian Candidate" and never of the journalistic integrity of Edward R. Murrow?

    March 7, 2010 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  21. jack

    Remove health care as an issue for the '10 elections and what do the republicans have as a platform to run on? Nothing ! The record they have left themselves to run on is the party of NO. And who wants to vote for obstructionist? That is a vote for nothing to be done. And what does that get you ? Nothing ! With the dems passing health care that leaves jobs as the foremost item facing Americans. And how can republicans run on a proven record of being the party that gives tax cuts to large companies to move jobs overseas. If you have been downsized, you can thank the republicans. The jobs that created a vibrant middle class are gone and won't be coming back.

    March 7, 2010 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  22. Alfalfa

    Bottom line is the bill does nothing to relieve premium costs, fix Medicare and Medicade. A mandated plan will assure the insurance companies more helpless victims and without some regulatory control on pricing will result in an exorbitant increase to premium costs for anyone over 55 years old. If half the idiots on here actually read what is in the bill and were aware of the longer term financial ramifications, perhaps they would stop looking at the GOP as obstructionists and see them as a glimmer of common sense in an out of control spending spree. I say pass it with reconciliation and watch the chaos unfold, then it is bye-bye Dumbocrats!

    March 7, 2010 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  23. In the West

    The repugs need to stop crying. Two slightly different versions of the Health Care bill have ALREADY passed the House and Senate, and now it will be a simple "up or down" majority vote to make them into one final bill. Haven't the republicans been begging for such simple democratic (majority) votes since Reagan? What a bunch of spin-drunk, money-hungry hypocrites. The repugs have NEVER been anything more than the party that protects elites and big business.

    March 7, 2010 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  24. JohnRJ08

    Yesterday, CNN posted a video of a speech by Senator Griffith, as former Democrat who is now a staunch Republican that opposes health care reform. In this video, Griffith re-stated every grotesque lie that we've seen in the insurance industry's $2 million a day disinformation campaign for the last 12 months. This video was posted without comment or analysis from CNN. It was like a free political announcement, brought to you by the RNC and the insurance companies. NOT ONE LIE was questioned in the video. This, folks, is NOT responsible journalism. It is ADVOCACY. CNN, in its constant pursuit of higher ratings, is overtly pandering to FOX News viewers. When it is not doing that, it sits on a fence and fails to ask any question that might be considered pro-reform, even if the person being interviewed is spewing lie after lie. Anderson Cooper, Wolf Blitzer, and Candy Crowley are all guilty of this routine abdication of their journalistic responsibilities. I don't expect CNN to endorse anything. I do expect them to know enough about the subject matter that they know when their guests are lying and that they should call them on it during their interviews. THAT IS THEIR JOB.

    March 7, 2010 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  25. republicans hate america

    oh man enough with the metaphors!!!!

    March 7, 2010 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
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