‘Top Line’ — Centrist Group Still Concerned About Health Care Bill

Oct 13, 2009 2:12pm

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: Today’s vote by the Senate Finance Committee will provide a major boost for President Obama’s bid to overhaul the nation’s health care system — and the support of Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, gives Democrats at least (and maybe only) one Republican to point to as evidence of bipartisanship. But much of the hard work remains ahead. On ABCNews.com’s “Top Line” today, Ralph G. Neas, the CEO of the National Coalition on Health Care, applauded Finance Chairman Max Baucus’ “heroic accomplishment” of getting the bill through committee — but said the measure still doesn’t do enough to control costs. “In its current form, we cannot yet support it,” Neas told us. “We would like to see more people covered, and maybe most importantly we think [the bill] falls short on the cost containment issues — both the short-term cost containment issues, but more importantly, long-term cost containment.” Neas said he’d also like to see the final bill raise taxes less than current drafts call for. “We spend $2.5 trillion a year on health care, as you all know. We don’t have to spend $3.0 trillion or $3.5 trillion,” Neas said. “We just have to spend the money more wisely and efficiently and fairly. So I’m hoping we can lower the taxes in both bills and have effective long-term as well as short-term cost containment. That’s the secret to all of this.” The coalition represents a broad cross-section of labor, business, religious, medical, and education interests, and has taken a mostly centrist tack in helping shape health care reform efforts. Neas also said that Democratic efforts to get Republicans on board have been worthwhile, even if the only GOP vote they wind up getting is Snowe’s. Those efforts will make it easier to get conservative Democrats to support a final bill, he said. “The most important thing about trying for bipartisanship is that you convince the fiscally conservative Democrats that you’re trying to pull out all the stops, that you really want Republicans,” Neas said. “And the Republicans keep on rebuffing every attempt at bipartisanship, and it becomes apparent that they’re gonna try to deprive Barack Obama of any health care bill at all. Then those so called Blue Dogs, those fiscally conservative Democrats, are much more likely to go with the president.” Click HERE to see the full interview with Ralph Neas. We also checked in with Republican strategist Kevin Madden on Snowe’s political calculation, as well as Liz Cheney’s new venture, and GOP Chairman Michael Steele’s new attempt to reach out to young voters with a revamped Website that features a good bit of Steele himself. “As the chairman I think he right now is the chief salesman for anything related to the introduction of a new product related to the Republican Party, so I think it’s perfectly appropriate,” Madden said. “The question now is, where does it go from here? Is it about GOP.com or is it about the chairman? I think what you’re seeing today is a very smart first effort. It’s gotten good reviews from a lot of the people who are into the hyper-technical aspect of it.” (The Website features a new “face” of the GOP every time you hit refresh. It took me six clicks to come across a white male face; it belonged to the late Sen. Leonidas C. Dyer, R-Mo., whose anti-lynching bill was filibustered by Senate Democrats, in 1922.)

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