Centrist Senators Say They Oppose Health Care Bill

The New York Times
November 22, 2009

The morning after voting to commence debate on ground-breaking health care legislation, two centrist senators, Ben Nelson and Joseph I. Lieberman, said on Sunday that they were opposed to the bill as it is currently written, particularly its inclusion of a new government-run insurance program.

Mr. Nelson, the Nebraska senator who voted with his fellow Democrats to start debate sometime after Thanksgiving, said that he was opposed to the bill’s insistence on a so-called public option — a government insurance plan that would compete with private firms to offer coverage for uninsured Americans. While the bill gives states the right to opt out of a public option, Senator Nelson said he would only support a bill that required states to opt in, a step that would stretch out the time that such a program could be broadly enacted. Such a provision would allow for more “state-based solutions” to issues of health care coverage, he said in an appearance on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos.”

“I don’t want a big government, Washington-run operation program that undermine the private insurance that 200 million Americans now have,” he said.

He added that if the public option remained in the bill in its present form, he would refuse to stop an expected Republican filibuster. Because he is one of the 60 votes the Democrats had counted on to prevent a filibuster, his statement could dampen the enthusiasm for Democrats still exulting over their ability Saturday evening to come together on a crucial procedural vote and launch debate.

Mr. Lieberman, the Connecticut independent who caucuses with the Democrats and one of the 60 senators voting to start debate, said that he too would ultimately oppose a bill with a public option because it would impose billion of dollars of new costs at a time that the country’s economy is not out of the woods.

“We have a health care system that has real troubles, but we have an economic system that is in real crisis,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “And I don’t want to fix the problems in our healthcare system in a way that creates more of an economic crisis.”

He also contended that because the government uses regulation to hold down excessive prices charged by a business, it was “radical” to have “government go into that business.” And he said that “the irony of ironies” is that the Congressional Budget Office has reported that the government-run program could end up charging more for health insurance than the current average charged by private firms.

The rest of the article is at the NYT.

Comments are closed.