WASHINGTON — Failure is not an option on health care, a leading Democratic senator said Monday, even as Republicans turned up the heat on moderates who hold the fate of the legislation in their hands.
“We’re not going to not pass a bill,” said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. With or without Republican support, Democrats will get it done, Schumer said, because a health care system that leaves nearly 50 million uninsured and spends more than any other is clearly broken.
Republicans wasted no time Monday going after Democratic moderates who delivered a Senate victory Saturday for President Barack Obama. The 60-39 vote overcame a procedural hurdle and allowed floor debate to start after Thanksgiving. Senate Democrats hope to finish their bill by Christmas, but it remains to be seen whether Obama gets final health care legislation this year.
A state Republican Party leader accused Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., of trying to have it both ways by talking conservative back home and voting with liberals in Washington. Nelson’s office had no response, but the Democrat has said he won’t vote for a final bill unless it takes into account his concerns about limits on abortion funding, as well as his opposition to a new government-run insurance plan.
Another moderate Democrat, Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, said Monday she also could not support “a government-run, government-funded” public plan.
Democrats hope to persuade at least one Republican, Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe, to vote for the final bill. But Snowe voted with Republicans on Saturday to block the 10-year, $979 billion bill from coming to the floor.
Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., will have to resolve differences within his party over abortion, taxes and letting the government sell health insurance as a competitor with private insurers. Another 60-vote test awaits him at the end of the debate, weeks from now.
The House has already passed its version.
Both bills would require all Americans to carry health insurance, with government help to make premiums more affordable.
The bills would ban insurance companies from denying coverage or charging more to people with health problems. They would set up new insurance markets for those who now have the hardest time finding and keeping coverage — self-employed people and small businesses. Americans insured through big employer plans would gain new consumer protections but wouldn’t face major changes. Seniors would get better prescription coverage.
The bills differ on abortion, taxes and the public plan.