Sen. Nelson indicates supports for opt-in public option
By John Amick and T. Rees Shapiro
A day after the Senate voted to take up the health care reform bill, President Obama's top domestic priority dominated the discussion on Sunday morning talk shows.
ABC: THIS WEEK - Nelson pushes opt-in public option
On ABC's "This Week," Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) reiterated his likely support of an opt-in provision for the public option.
But Nelson, a moderate who voted Saturday to send the bill to the Senate floor for debate, said that "if there are a whole host of other items that are the same as they are right now," he would not vote for the bill. Those include the Senate's language on abortion, which is less restrictive on public funding than the House version.
"It depends on what the public option is," Nelson said. "I am opposed to the public option... where the states have to opt out. I said I would look at a public option where states could opt in."
Support from Nelson -- along with other Democratic moderates like Sens. Mary Landrieu (La.) and Blanche Lincoln (Ark.) -- has been a running guessing-game on Capitol Hill. The Nebraskan gave no solid indication on what his plans are for future procedural votes, nor did he say he based his vote Saturday night on his past comments that he would not vote to start debate without a bill he agreed with.
"What I meant by that is that, if I thought the -- the vote -- the bill couldn't -- this was before I saw the bill," Nelson said, "but I thought the bill couldn't be amended and couldn't be corrected and improved, then I wouldn't move -- vote to move it forward and move the debate. But when I saw the bill, I said, 'This can be amended. It can be improved.' And the -- the debate should begin, and ought not to stop the opportunity to improve the bill."
Nelson's said he is concerned about a "big government-run plan" that won't be as effective as care managed on a state-by-state basis.
Nelson's support for the legislation has been a running guessing-game on Capitol Hill and the Nebraskan gave no indication about his plans are for future procedural votes.
But Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) said "there is no test case out there that (Democrats) can point to, no pilot project they can point to where a government-controlled health care system has brought down the cost, increased the access, taken care of those with pre-existing and chronic conditions, allowed portability, dealt with malpractice reform," she said. "Those are things we as Republicans are for, and unfortunately, their bill does not achieve what they are saying they want to achieve."
NBC: MEET THE PRESS - Lieberman reiterates his dislike of a public option
Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said he voted to give the Democrats a 60th vote to bring the bill to the floor because it needs to be debated. But he predicted that the current bill would not pass as is and said he would vote against it if a public insurance option is in the final bill.
That government insurance option has always been negotiable, said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who supports it. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said it is necessary to allow competition against the "800 pound gorilla" of private insurers.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Tex.) said the current health care reform bill would be a "disaster for our country," adding to the $12 trillion national debt. She said Congress should start the reform process over again. Feinstein (D-Calif.) noted that the current bill includes a system of checks and triggers, that would allow Congress to "watch it and change it" depending on its successes and failures.
FOX NEWS SUNDAY - Republicans bemoan a 'flawed' bill
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) declared the legislation "fundamentally flawed," saying it would result in higher premiums, higher taxes and cuts to Medicare. Alexander said it would be arrogant to think Congress could fix the health care system all at once.
Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) predicted a half-trillion dollar cut to Medicare that he said would be detrimental to the health care of senior citizens, and would bankrupt Medicare in a few years. But Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) noted that the AARP, the nation's largest senior citiezen lobby, backed the Saturday night vote to bring the bill to floor argument, despite the bill's current cut to Medicare.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) touted a federal small business tax credit that would be offered in the next two years. She said it would be provide a cushion to employers seeking relief from private insurance costs.
Women, she added, "have more to gain from health care reform" because the bill covers breast cancer screenings and the option for them to buy abortion coverage with their own money.
CBS: FACE THE NATION - Senators react to channeled funds in health bill
Two influential senators weighed in today on the $100 million or more in federal funds, written into the Senate's health reform legislation, that would go to Louisiana, Landrieu's home.
"Mary Landrieu is a very good legislator, and she does two things very well," Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said. "One, she delivers the goods for Louisiana. She has constantly, and I think the people of Louisiana respect her for it. But second, she has real views on health care, and those are taken into account as well."
Schumer said he believed a united Democratic caucus will come together eventually.
"We are a diverse caucus," he said. "And when we become 60 members, we get members from red states. But what we've shown is unity throughout. Every time there's a major challenge, the caucus comes together for the good of the nation."
Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said the money delivered to a skeptical Democrat's state is indicative of the kinds of actions Democratic leadership will resort to in order to pass the bill.
"The American people don't like that when they see it," Kyl said. "It should be on the merits. And when these senators, for example, say, 'Well, we'll vote to start the bill but that doesn't guarantee our vote at the end,' the pressure at the end of the process is enormous."
CNN: STATE OF THE UNION - Democrats hope coming weeks will sort out differences in health reform
Democratic senators who support a strong public option would not speculate on what the Senate leadership would have to concede to handful of moderate Democrats in order to reach the goal of 60 votes to pass a reform bill.
"I'm not going to answer yes or no, because I don't think we get to that," Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said today when asked if he and other public option supporters would take a stand against one alternative that would push creation of a government-run insurance option years into the future.
Brown said he hopes any senator opposed to the current bill will take the opportunity to add amendments in coming weeks, but he doesn't want to see a handful of legislators block the entire effort.
"I think, in the end, I don't want four Democratic senators dictating to the other 56 of us and to the country, when the public option has this much support, that it's not going to be in it," he said.
Brown said of the four moderates: "I don't think they want to be on the wrong side of history. I don't think they want to go back and say, you know, on a procedural vote, I killed the most important bill in my political career."
In reference to the language in the bill that gives Louisiana, home state of moderate Democrat Mary Landrieu, about $100 million in additional Medicaid funding, "State of the Union" host John King asked Brown if Landrieu's vote was bought to get her to agree to start debate.
"We all go to the leader and talk about things in our state," Brown replied. "And news reports sometimes aren't accurate about what might have been done for somebody or what might not have been done for somebody."
During his own segment of the show, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), said Republicans will continue to oppose the Democrats' reform bill. When asked if Republicans will advocate a slower pace on the way to reform, McConnell was vague.
"What we don't think is America wants another 2,000-page bill," he said. "We don't think that's the way to go. We think we ought to go step by step to improve the -- the system."
On the controversial abortion amendment in the House bill, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) said he'd like to see no further restrictions on abortion coverage in the Senate's bill, but ultimately wasn't going to speculate on whether an entire bill would be sacrificed to strike the abortion language.
"We shouldn't be using health care reform to rewrite long-standing policy from the federal government on abortion," Bennet said. "It's just not right. It's not the place we should be doing it."
C-SPAN: NEWSMAKERS - Levin: Counter-insurgency is most important
Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said he is not sure what the Obama administration's impending Afghanistan war strategy will entail. The chairman of the Armed Services Committee said he hopes President Obama will not call for a combat troop surge, but instead will focus on sending Afghan troop trainers and support personnel, and suggested the President "Afghan-ize and Nato-ize this effort."
Levin said President Obama should ask more from NATO allies, and more from the Afghan government, which he said is corrupt and needs to be cleaned up. He said President Obama should focus more on a developed counter-insurgency strategy than the actual number of troops he chooses to send to Afghanistan.
November 22, 2009; 1:51 PM ET
Categories: Sunday Talkies | Tags: health care
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