Health Care in America
Obama's new health care reform plan to include GOP ideas
By Dan Lothian and Ed Henry, CNN White House Correspondents
March 3, 2010 1:43 a.m. EST
President Obama's new health care reform plan will embrace some GOP ideas, according to Democratic sources.
Washington (CNN) -- In a last-ditch attempt to craft a bipartisan health care reform bill, President Obama will release a new proposal Wednesday that will include Republican ideas on tort reform and health savings accounts, according to Democratic officials familiar with the plans.
But top Republicans, including House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, immediately said the new proposal is not good enough and reiterated calls for the president to scrap the plan and start over.
The situation is setting up a likely showdown that top Democrats say will end up with the president trying to pass the health legislation with only Democratic votes through the legislative shortcut of reconciliation.
In fact, senior congressional Democrats have privately expressed frustration that the president is spending time at this late date reaching out to Republicans, when it has become increasingly clear the two parties can not settle their differences on this contentious issue.
The senior Democrats said they think the White House should be devoting time trying to win over Democrats, because it's still not clear they can secure a simply majority in the House and Senate for the president's plan.
Video: Health care moving forward?
"Why even bother with the olive branches?" asked one senior congressional Democratic aide. "It's very clear Republicans are not going to provide any votes."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday wouldn't say whether she has the votes to pass a bill, saying Democrats still need to fill in the details of legislation and get a final price tag on it. But the speaker remained positive about the bill's prospects in the House.
"Our members want quality affordable health care for all Americans, and I feel very confident that we will accomplish that," Pelosi said.
The No. 2 House Democrat told reporters he thinks some of the Democrats who opposed the House bill last fall could support the new plan the president is pushing.
"Do I think there's a possibility of some people changing? Yes, I do," said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. "I think that's because it will be a different bill than either the House and Senate. It will hopefully take the strengths of both and I think if that happens, as is normally the case, when bills change, members look at it somewhat differently."
Getting more House Democrats to vote yes is crucial, because the House voted narrowly to pass its version last fall. Two Democrats who voted for that bill have since left Congress -- Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, and Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Florida. Another Democratic supporter, Rep. John Murtha, D-Pennsylvania, died in February.
The one House Republican who voted for the bill, Rep. Joseph Cao of Louisiana, has since said publicly he is unlikely to support the revised Democratic bill.
Hoyer acknowledged it could be an uphill climb for House Democratic leaders to get the votes. That's because the parliamentary procedure of reconciliation could require that the House first pass the original Senate version, a version many House Democrats oppose, before the Senate would vote on the president's proposed changes.
Many House Democrats are wary about going first and have a deep distrust of their Senate counterparts after seeing the Senate fail to take up several bills approved by the House.
"I think members want some assurances that those items that they have problems with are, in fact, modified before they vote for the Senate bill. I don't know that it's impossible, but it's difficult," Hoyer said.
He strongly rejected, as Obama and other Democratic leaders have, Republican demands that Democrats scrap their health care proposals and start over. "Starting over is a euphemism for not doing, frankly," he said.
Two Democratic officials, a White House official and a senior Democratic congressional aide, said the president is not expected to use the word "reconciliation" during his remarks on Wednesday, instead just calling for an up-or-down vote on the legislation, which is essentially code for the legislative shortcut.
The White House official said the president will "urge Congress to move swiftly toward votes on this legislation."
The official described the remarks as "moving forward into the final stage of the health insurance reform debate," so the president will again focus on what he thinks is at stake for American families and businesses, and on how "they'll have more control over their own health care, they'll see lower costs, and they'll see an end to insurance company abuses."
In highlighting what the White House thinks has been an honest effort to get bipartisan support, the official said Obama will point out that his proposal incorporates the "best ideas from both parties."
And in contrast to calls for a "baby steps" approach, the president will "restate his preference for a comprehensive bill that will reduce premiums and end discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions," the official said.
The president will make his remarks at 1:45 p.m. ET in the East Room, and will be joined by health care professionals from across the country and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
CNN's Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report.