House health care plan ain’t selling in Senate

Don’t look for the Senate to quickly follow the House on health care overhaul.

A government health insurance plan included in the House bill is unacceptable to a few Democratic moderates who hold the balance of power in the Senate. They’re locked in a battle with liberals, with the fate of President Barack Obama’s signature issue at stake.

If a government plan is part of the deal, “as a matter of conscience, I will not allow this bill to come to a final vote,” said Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Connecticut independent whose vote Democrats need to overcome GOP filibusters.

“The House bill is dead on arrival in the Senate,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said.

Democrats did not line up to challenge him. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has yet to schedule floor debate and hinted last week that senators may not be able to finish health care this year.

Nonetheless, the House vote provided an important lesson in how to succeed with less-than-perfect party unity, and one that Senate Democrats may be able to adapt. House Democrats overcame their own divisions and broke an impasse that threatened the bill after liberals grudgingly accepted tougher restrictions on abortion funding, as abortion opponents demanded.

In the Senate, the stumbling block is the idea of the government competing with private insurers. Liberals may have to swallow hard and accept a deal without a public plan to keep the legislation alive. As in the House, the compromise appears to be to the right of the political spectrum.

Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, who voted for a version of the Senate bill in committee, has given the Democrats a possible way out. She’s proposing to allow a government plan, if after a few years premiums keep escalating and local health insurance markets remain in the grip of a few big companies. This is the “trigger” option.

That approach appeals to moderates such as Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. “If the private market fails to reform, there would be a fallback position,” Landrieu said last week. “It should be triggered by choice and affordability, not by political whim.”

Lieberman said he opposes the public plan because it could become a huge and costly entitlement program.

For now, Reid is trying to find the votes for a different approach: a government plan that states could opt out of.

He will keep meeting with senators this week to see if he can work out a political formula that will give him not only the 60 votes needed to begin debate, but the 60 needed to shut off discussion and bring the bill to a final vote.

Toward the end of the week, the Congressional Budget Office may report back with a costs-and-coverage estimate on Reid’s bill, which he assembled from legislation passed by the Finance Committee and the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. The Finance Committee version does not include a government plan.

Reid has pledged to Obama that he will get the bill done by the end of the year and remains committed to doing that, according to a Senate leadership aide.

Both the House and Senate bills gradually would extend coverage to nearly all Americans by providing government subsidies to help pay premiums. The measures would bar insurers’ practices such as charging more to those in poor health or denying them coverage altogether.

All Americans would be required to carry health insurance, either through an employer, a government plan or by purchasing it on their own.

To keep down costs, the government subsidies and consumer protections don’t take effect until 2013. During the three-year transition, both bills would provide $5 billion in federal dollars to help get coverage for people with medical problems who are turned down by private insurers.

Both House and Senate would expand significantly the federal-state Medicaid health program for low-income people.

The majority of people with employer-provided health insurance would not see changes. The main beneficiaries would be some 30 million people who have no coverage at work or have to buy it on their own. The legislation would create a federally regulated marketplace where they could shop for coverage.

The are several major differences between the bills.

• The House would require employers to provide coverage; the Senate does not.

• The House would pay for the coverage expansion by raising taxes on upper-income earners; the Senate uses a variety of taxes and fees, including a levy on high-cost insurance plans.

• The House plan costs about $1.2 trillion over 10 years; the Senate version is under $900 billion.

By defusing the abortion issue — at least for now — the House may have helped the long-term prospects for the bill. Catholic bishops also eager to expand society’s safety net may yet endorse the final legislation.

Lieberman appeared on “Fox News Sunday,” while Graham was CBS’ “Face the Nation.”


  1. griff

    Ha. Yeah I couldn’t believe it when Obama supporters repeatedly insisted that he raised all his money from Joe Shmo the ragman.

    Yep it’s a huge scam. But we love being scammed, yes?

  2. Jim C

    Sandra , you do realize what you invision and describe ” We may have to form a compound for freedom lovers to form farms, dairies, schools and other places of survival. It would work if we could do this without a religious problem .You are a leader and I am a team worker. There are thousands of us who will want to survive even without the frills “. is by definition communism ? I must say comrade Sandra , this is quite a 180 from objectivism . Let me know when you get ready to set up your commune , though I must confess , I’m buddhist but I promise not to be a problem . In fact perhaps I can help with your chicken issue , have you ever considered becoming a vegetarian ? I have been for 37 years and so far so good , I think we may have found common ground here . How about this as a slogan for the new commune ” from each according to his ability , to each according to his need ” , kind of catchy , don’t you think ? So let me know when you are ready to start serious planning fellow traveler Sandra and we’ll talk . Heck , my sister has quite a bit of land in Texas , I might be able to get her to donate a parcel . Keep me posted Sandra .

  3. Jim C

    What many people don’t realize is that Obama was awash in corporate money . He didn’t raise that huge war chest with $5.00 donations from Joe sixpack and aunt Bettys butter and egg money as his campaign would have had us believe . Any doubt where his loyalities are were erased as soon as he started picking his cabinet , corporate friendly retreads and Goldman Sachs boys , yep , change we could believe in , just like the tooth fairy and Santa . While he has made populist noises about healthcare all of his actions and those of his minions have been to gut any meaningful reform . If one looks closely at what is now being touted as a ” public option ” it looks suspiciously like the co -ops that were being pushed by conservatives . What they now appear to be doing is setting up the supposed public option so only the poor can use it , they will be subsidized , the rest of us will be forced to the tender mercies of the insurance industry . What that will do is essentially turn it into a welfare program . That in turn will not only make it rather unpopular but easy to cut , gut and demonize . The poor will be buying the same overpriced insurance , but with public money . So all that seems to be accomplished by this joke of a bill is to make sure there’s no real competition and to force us all , by law to buy insurance from the same bunch that have been ripping us off for years, no choice , no cost containment , no real option .

  4. bryan mcclellan

    I’ll be the one in stripes and no shoelaces, if they can run me down leaving the barren hen house.

  5. Kent.Shaw

    “When lack of income makes one a criminal what is there left?”

    Debtors’ Prisons of course. See you in cell block 9.

    Kent Shaw

  6. bryan mcclellan

    When lack of income makes one a criminal what is there left? I am not materialistic by any means and have never wished to have all the toys and power that people seem bent on destroying each other over.
    All I’ve ever sought was honest pay for a days work and to lead the simple life that I was told I was fighting for lo those many years ago.
    We can’t drag these bastards down the steps of the Capitol and hang them by their treasonous necks because the teeth have been pulled from the generations who have followed. There is no resolve left for a free America that can stand to defend itself from these usurpers. Better to go quietly into entropy than make it worse for those you love by joining the splintered factions that will inevitably turn on one another out of greed.

  7. Sandra Price

    No! No! No!

    Stop it right now! We are all in this financial clusterfuck and we all will climb out laughing about how little security money gave us. 20 years ago I would have declared America would see the mistakes made and today I see that I was not wrong.

    American politics has destroyed all of us. Bryan, we are smarter than they are. I cannot move as my energy level is gone. I’m thinking of a green house that can take care of my green food that I love. My problem is that chickens are not allowed in this development so I may be looking for another place.
    The IRS should never have been allowed to grow to the extent that it did; but our wars, our desire for Big Daddy to take care of from the crib to the grave forced the situation. We may have to form a compound for freedom lovers to form farms, dairies, schools and other places of survival. It would work if we could do this without a religious problem.
    You are a leader and I am a team worker. There are thousands of us who will want to survive even without the frills.

    Think Survival!

  8. bryan mcclellan

    At my age and income level with the current jobs outlook I guess I’ll be needing that canoe, chain, padlock, and cinder block sooner than I anticipated. Lake Woebegone is calling America but her waters are far from placid.
    This will be one financial clusterfuck too many for myself to crawl out of (ALPO sucks) and while hanging around has it’s allure and there are still things to live for, sitting by powerless to seek my own way as a free American is not one of them.
    I will not go to jail or bankruptcy and refuse to cast my family into the fires of the IRS.
    The hilarious part about it all is that these pricks have to pay to bury me because I’m a Veteran. HA!

  9. Kent.Shaw

    “For requiring everyone to carry health insurance means the government can require us to buy all sorts of things we don’t need. And there is no way around it.”

    Absolutely. This is a very slippery slope. What arrogance, anyway! A large number of people have no health care insurance because they can’t afford it? Simply require them by law to purchase something they already can’t afford. Problem solved. It is stunning. Dumbfounding.

    Kent Shaw

  10. woody188

    That went to the Columbus Dispatch, USA Today, The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Financial Times. Let’s see if any of them have the cajones to print it.

    Ya have to love using the Party form to work against the Party. They wanted us to write letters supporting the legislation. I was laughing during most of the submission. 🙂

  11. woody188

    Thanks to, I just sent this letter to the editors of the major corporate news publications.

    Subject: Health Care Insurance Reform a Mockery of Liberty

    November 7th 2009 the US House of Representatives passed a “health care reform” bill largely upon party lines known as the Affordable Health Care for America Act. Hardly any of them know what is in this monstrous 1990-page bill. If asked, most would say they never had a chance to read it.

    This is what passes for representative government these days. Large bills written by industry insiders that line the pockets of the few at the expense of the many and our dear leaders don’t even bother to read what it is they are enacting into law. It is a dereliction of duty, and an affront to all we hold dear.

    We saw this with the TARP bill, where profits at mega-banks and insurers were privatized while losses have been taken on by the public. This is how the USA PATRIOT Act was also passed, using fear after 9/11 as a means to enact legislation that was written long before the attacks on that dreadful day. Legislation most Americans would be against if there was time given to read and debate it. But that is not what we do in our Republic anymore. For we are a constitutional republic in name only in this new century. What we practice is better described as fascism.

    Yes November 7th will be remembered as a step further into fascism. For requiring everyone to carry health insurance means the government can require us to buy all sorts of things we don’t need. And there is no way around it. Some like to compare it to having auto insurance, but I can ride a bike, take a bus, or hail a taxi to get around. The only way out of paying this new health insurance tax is death. Where’s the freedom to simply be left alone?

    Yours in Liberty,
    Michael Wood

  12. woody188

    They are going to take it out of your paycheck so that most people won’t even get the chance to stop it until after the fact. Just wait and see.

  13. almandine

    I can’t help but think of the Cash for Clunkers program and all the hood-winkery that went on there. Think when insurance gets too high we can just forge one of the certificates for the IRS that says we’re in compliance? Ten-to-one they can’t keep track of it all.

  14. woody188

    Lieberman said he opposes the public plan because it could become a huge and costly entitlement program.

    What, like foreign aid to Israel?

    Regarding this health care insurance reform, passing this largely on party lines might very well cause a large portion of the population to simply revolt by violent and non-violent means. Not a wise course of action.

  15. griff

    Another about face by Obama. During the primary campaign he had these words to say regarding mandatory healthcare…

    Senator Clinton. . . believes that we have to force people who don’t have health insurance to buy it. Otherwise, there will be a lot of people who don’t get it.

    I don’t see those folks. And I think that it is important for us to recognize that if, in fact, you are going to mandate the purchase of insurance and it’s not affordable, then there’s going to have to be some enforcement mechanism that the government uses. And they may charge people who already don’t have health care fines, or have to take it out of their paychecks. And that, I don’t think, is helping those without health insurance. That is a genuine difference.”

    Funny how Obama used widespread dislike of Clinton to secure the Democrat nomination then used even wider-spread dislike (OK, I’m being generous here – he’s gone now) of Bush to propel himself to the presidency…And then changed his mind on everything.

    In fact, everything Obama campaigned against he is now supporting fully, to include all of Bush’s most heinous activities. He’s obviously counting on the short retention/attention spans of his mesmerized following, and of course they will not disappoint.

    That doesn’t stop the faithful from continuing to back this pathological liar in everything his highness wants to do despite the fact that his only consistent trait is that he’s inconsistent. It actually seems to energize them. After all, he is THE ONE.

    I saw a bumper sticker the other day that read: THE ONE 2008. Cult of personality or a pathetically simple-mided electorate? You decide.