Senate Health Care Debate Stalls as Republicans Invoke Delay Tactics

"If this is an insurance company's dream, I think the insurance companies have yet to get the memo," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters today. "Insurance companies have spent hundreds of millions of dollars lobbying against this legislation. ... If this is such a good deal for them, I'm not entirely sure why they're fighting it."

""I would ask Dr. Dean, is it -- how better do you address those that don't have insurance, passing a bill that covers 30 million that don't currently have it, or killing a bill? I don't think any rational person would say killing a bill makes any sense at this point," Gibbs added.

Democratic leaders will likely scrap the alternative they had developed for a government-run insurance option, the so-called Medicare buy-in, which, if included, would have allowed Americans between the ages of 55 and 64 to buy into Medicare. The central tenets of that compromise reached last week among Democrats were stripped from the bill because of the objections of independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who said he would not support the legislation if it contained that option "because it reportedly has some of the same infirmities that the public option did."

Democratic leaders need Lieberman's vote to avoid a Republican filibuster, but liberals are unhappy, saying the bill has been modified to please one senator.

Health Care Fight Continues

Democrats are also eyeing Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., whose amendment to impose tighter regulations on abortion coverage was voted down earlier this month. Democrats are counting on his support to get the needed 60 votes but he has yet to say how he will vote.

Obama "made a strong case for passing health care reform now," Nelson said today, according to the Associated Press. "But I think it still remains to be seen if it was compelling.

"I do say if nothing is done, I'm not sure what Plan B is," he said. "If Plan B is start over... it's quite possible that it just won't happen. It seems to me that we have a chance right now to fix a flawed bill."

An ABC News/Washington Post poll released today shows that Americans are more skeptical about health care overhaul than before. Of those polled, 53 percent said they see higher costs for themselves if a health care bill with the current proposals is passed. About as many, 55 percent, say the overall cost of the national health care system would go up more sharply, and 50 percent see health care as better under the existing set-up.

Republicans, none of whom are likely to support the Senate health care bill, today cited polls to voice their opposition to the legislation.

Armed with a chart of public opinion polls from the past year, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said at a news conference today that the Democrats' "problem is not the 40 of us. Their problem is the American people."

The Senate minority leader agreed with the president that passing a health care bill would be historic but called it "the wrong kind of history.

"The American people are asking us not to make a historic mistake," McConnell told reporters.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a leading critic of the Democrats' efforts, made similar arguments on the Senate floor.

"Fifty-seven percent of seniors in America believe, and they are correct, that this proposal would weaken the benefits they have earned," McCain said.

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