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. ThinkAgain

    The Republicans' strategy from November 5, 2008 has been to block all of President Obama's legislation and efforts to help our country.

    The Republicans have called health care reform, President Obama's "Waterloo," meaning if they can stop him regarding this, they can stop him at anything.

    The Republicans' goal has been to use the democratic process to block and obstruct at every turn, regardless of the consequences to our country and to our people, for the sole purpose of regaining power.

    It’s pretty obvious that the only thing Republicans care about is themselves and their cronies – and not the American people.

    GOP = Party Before Country

    March 7, 2010 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  2. German, Irish American

    Of course, everyone knows, except the Obama lemmings, that none of the Republicans majors issues are in the bill. The Democrats even had to admit that abortions are federally funded in the Senate version that Obama wants the House to pass. This after Obama went on national TV and said the Republicans were lying and abortions would not be funded in this bill. Obama and the Democrats are now using their political philosophy, the Saul Alinsky approach, demonize a group or opposition. While Obama is busy installing fear and hate against insurance companies, doctors, and hospitals, he ignores the part his lawyer buddies play in health-care costs. Also, he ignores the MAJOR cost of health insurance premiums, BIG PHARMA. But Obama will not demonize big pharma because he and the Democrats cut a sweetheart deal with the big pharma companies early in the negotiations behind closed doors while keeping the Republicans locked out.

    March 7, 2010 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  3. ThinkAgain

    Through their phony polls and their endless repeating of lies, the Republicans like to say they know what the American people want, all in an effort to get their way and to thwart the will of the American people who VOTED THEM OUT OF POWER on November 4, 2008.

    The Republicans LOST! And while they have a right to be heard, they ARE NOT in charge any more – and it's about time the President and the Democratic majority take matters in hand and move forward.

    The tail must stop wagging the dog!

    Not just because the Republicans lost in November 2008, but because our country and our people suffered under their 8-year rule under GW Bush. And make no mistake: The Republicans have no new ideas and want to take us back to the devastation of the Bush years.

    March 7, 2010 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  4. Pat

    Polls show this...polls show that. Does anyone ever look at a poll? Do you people just hear what you want to on television or by your party and just believe it? Read the polls yourself. Read the questions. ALL POLLS HAVE QUESTIONS THAT ARE WORDED TO GET THE DESIRED RESULT.
    Do you want Socialized medicine? NO! ( Americans are against Obamacare)
    Do you want an option to buy into medicare which is cheaper than what you have now? YES! (Americans want the public option)

    Same question only worded differently. Our country has turned into a bunch of sheep!!!!!!!

    March 7, 2010 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  5. fogcityguy

    This is a divisive issue, name calling based on one's opinion is probably not right. I can see why people would object to this bill. Personally I have gone through health care hell with my wife's back problems (arthritis in spine and more complications) and hence I am supportive of this bill. I also know a friend (independent contractor) with health care who just filed for bankruptcy because of private insurance on individual market declined to cover a lot of things ($250K worth). He used to be against HCR till lightning struck him. So that is my personal experience and not second hand experience. But I understand if someone objects to bill, nothing wrong with something that you don't understand or experienced.

    One thing is clear beyond any shadow of doubt – GOP is playing politics, clear and simple. They have misrepresented the bill and that is WRONG. Its one thing to be against the bill, but misrepresenting the issue of life and death is dirty IMHO.

    My 2 cent

    March 7, 2010 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  6. Ken in NC

    The Republican party has it's strength in the fact that while they may not all agree on an issue, when their leadership says this is the route we will take, they take it. They all fall in line and follow even if it means marching off a cliff together. They are using that strength to bottleneck the operations of the government and this administration so they can show that the President has not gotten anything done. Of course they fail to realize it also means they didn’t do anything either except bring the operation of our government to a halt. That is their strength but also their weakness as it demonstrates they are for only their own gains and those of their owners such as Big Oil, Pharmaceutical Companies, Wall Street and Health Care Companies and not those they were elected to represent.

    Democrats on the other hand are unorganized. They have leaders in name only. They have no spine as they cave to fear, lies and threats without hesitation. Democrats negotiated away half of the health care proposal before they ever got started based on the fear put forth by Republicans and their lies. Then they fight among themselves to kill their own bill. They each have to have it their way or no way.

    I am fed up with both groups. Elections are coming up and while the Newbies have no tract record, the voters know incumbents aren’t getting it done so I’ll cast my Democratic vote for all the “Newbies” in November and “that ain’t no Republican threat”.

    March 7, 2010 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  7. wikwox

    Does this surprise anyone besides the Parrots Of The Press? The Republicans have no intention of voting for this bill or any other. The Republicans seek to damage Obama and the Dems and don't care if they wreck the country to do it.

    March 7, 2010 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  8. Open mouthed Canadian

    As a Canadian I simply don't understand the fear some people have of a universal health care system. To know that you and everyone of your fellow countrymen will be looked after should bad things happen health wise, is something you should be proud of, not afraid of. It's not "free". We all pay for it with higher income taxes, sales taxes and the like. But it is certainly worth it when bad things happen.

    The worst thing that might happen is you may become more like Canadians, easy going, polite and very friendly, loved the world over with no enemies.

    Should anyone take offense at this I apologise in advance.... 🙂

    March 7, 2010 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  9. leonardofru

    ThinkAgain – if the Dems themselves had the votes this would be done. It is not the GOP blocking this. It patriotic Dems that are blocking it.

    March 7, 2010 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  10. GI Joe

    When members of my family read posts that call silly names, they don't look for content - they move to the next rational thinker.

    Some folks are just too negative and slandering of the "other" side and not able to make a rational statement.

    March 7, 2010 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  11. JohnRJ08

    During the so-called health care summit, Republicans constantly stated that the vast majority of the American public has rejected this bill. That lie is being repeated in this forum. More than half the American public wants this bill to pass, DESPITE a year-long, $2 million a day campaign of fear and disinformation by the insurance industry. Nearly 75% of all Americans want some kind of health care reform, but they're worried about this particular bill because it doesn't seem to go far enough. The people in Massachusetts aren't against health care reform. They're upset about this bill because it doesn't have the public option.

    Republicans need to stop lying. If you can't win on the merits of a truthful argument, your argument isn't worth winning.

    March 7, 2010 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  12. Hammerer

    The Dems have decided that the working class will pay their "fair share" to provide healthcare for the lazy that will not work and the crowd that decides to buy drugs and alcohol and party along with spending money on bad choices instead of getting the necessary things such as healthcare and providing for their own.
    This bill will not only be a disaster for healthcare as we know it today, no way can 50 million be added to the system and not overload it, but will bankrupt the few people that are still working.
    But the government will control healthcare and that is the real issue. Take over another area of your life.

    March 7, 2010 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  13. ThinkAgain

    "Sue" and others who think the American people don't want this health care reform bill: How many of you have actually read the bill and know what's in it?

    You and others are simply repeating the message that Fox and the Republicans spew day after day after day. Your opinion is not based on fact; you're just falling for the scare tactics of the right.

    And once again, you're being scared into not supporting something that would actually benefit you (the health care reform bill) and supporting something that will harm you (the GOP).

    March 7, 2010 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  14. Who said the Mayans were wrong?

    Even if its passed, it will be too little too late for millions of people that now need it.Without a Public Option that starts the day after enactment,this will be nother more than a sugar pill.Rome rotted from the inside out,not from an external enemy.Gee,isnt greed great.

    March 7, 2010 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  15. Sue

    Instead of Obama, Pelosi, Reid and the Democrats working on a transparent approach to bipartisan reform that would result in health care being more affordable and effective for US citizens and looking like heroes in the process............They used this as an opportunity to gain more power/control over the lives of US citizens/workers.

    This IS Obama's Waterloo!!! If the Democrats shove this down the throats of US citizens-–when the MAJORITY of citizens have said that they do NOT want it-–including the majority of Independents--they are going to get their butts kicked in the November elections.

    If they do not pass it.........They are going to get their butts kicked in November-–as the majority of the loony left liberals will not show up at the polls.

    And, now, Obama and the liberal Democrats are going to bring up amnesty again as well. What fools!!!! It is like Obama is trying to lose control of the house/senate in November.

    March 7, 2010 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  16. ThinkAgain

    Only a scared, naive person believes that Republicans would enact meaningful health care reform if given the chance.

    Republicans believe that the free market will fix everything, even as health care costs have gone through the roof in the last 10 years – and will be going up as much as 39% this year, for not tangible reason, other than "answering to the stockholders" who want a "better return on their investment."

    Republicans don't care if you can't get coverage or are dropped by your insurance company if you should get sick.

    Republicans believe that you only deserve quality medical treatment if you have the money. If you don't have the money, you deserve to get sick and die.

    This is my opinion based on the Republicans' actions and words.

    March 7, 2010 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  17. Blue

    Help our President and vote for the people of our great country. Why would you not vote for this healthcare plan? It will help everyone that needs medical care and that is just about everyone in the US.

    March 7, 2010 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  18. JLM

    The Grand Obstructionist Party works for the Insurance Companies, and not for the people. It's all about making the rich richer off the hands of poor people.

    March 7, 2010 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  19. John

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

    Of course not. The GOP wants the status quo:

    First: Million$ into the pockets of greedhead insurance executives and shareholders.

    Second: Healthcare for the priveleged elite.


    March 7, 2010 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  20. Clint, Wa.

    Lead, follow, or get out of the way. Mr. Obama, you are the President of this great country and it is past time to take control. Quit trying to appease all of theses people (Rep. or Dem.) that really only care about them selfs and not the good of this great country. The majority of the people in this country voted for you because they believed in you. They wanted change, they still want change and it is not to late. Please, take control and do the job that you were hired to do.

    March 7, 2010 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  21. Dave Harris

    With Republicans portraying Democrats as the Evil Empire and the Joker and Cruella DeVille to their brain-dead supporters, it is hardly surprising that they will oppose the health care proposals, along with anything else Democrats try to do. The issues don't matter anymore, it's all cartoonish super-villainy.

    March 7, 2010 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  22. Harold Trainer, USAF RET

    President Obama and Congress in a big bi-partisan vote, extended the Patriot Act for another year. This extensive government involvement in the lives of Americans and the violation of their rights ostensibly was to increase our security.

    However when it comes to health care security our Congress and President do not want extensive involvement of the government. Most do not support a public option and the Republicans rant and rave over passing any significant health care reform.

    What is the difference between security from the Patriot Act or security from a robust health care reform bill?

    I think you can follow the money of the too big to fail health care industry. It accounts for $2.5 trillion a year and 17% of our economy. Who knows how much they give to our representatives in Congress?

    March 7, 2010 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  23. Four and The Door

    “The question is: Is this the best way we can do reform?,” Baird said of his reservations.
    He nailed it. This bill put forth by the Sanate is a disaster for several reasons. For one, it is too expensive at a time when our Nation does not need to go $1 trillion further into debt . It depends a great deal on robbing from Medicare, a program that is already a runaway federal government financial nightmare. It only speeds up the increasing cost of health care, the problem it was supposed to fix. And it is loaded down with back room deals that will cost most Americans dearly.

    As Americans, we can do much better than this and it will not take so much time. They just need to dump this monster that was created in a mad rush to get health care passed while the Democrats still had a fillibuster-proof majority in the Senate. That did not happen, Let it go.
    Put your ego aside, Obama and do this bill correctly. Start over.

    March 7, 2010 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  24. GI Joe

    Sue – it isn't about government power and control – it's about empowering ALL of us to have decent healthcare.

    Me-thinks thou doest watch too much Fox.

    March 7, 2010 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  25. ThinkAgain

    The Republican solution to the health care crisis is to cut taxes on the wealthy and give everyone a $5000 credit towards health care costs.

    If tax cuts for the wealthy resulted in a better, more robust economy and high employment here in the United States, we would have seen that after all the Bush tax cuts.

    Instead, the wealthy invested their money overseas where labor is cheap and environmental protections are non-existent. U.S. unemployment went through the roof, and the gap between the rich and poor dramatically widened.

    Regarding the $5000 credit: That's not enough money to insure a family of 4 for a year, unless the only coverage you buy is catastrophic insurance, which has huge per-person deductibles before any coverage kicks in.

    In the meantime, your family doesn't get preventive care, immunizations or well-child/annual check-ups. And you end up in the emergency room from illnesses that never should have gotten severe in the first place.

    You have to been totally naive to think that a Republican solution to the health care crisis will benefit anyone except the insurance companies and their stockholders.

    March 7, 2010 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
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