ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: The latest round of concessions in health care negotiations — designed to nab Sen. Joe Lieberman’s support — has left liberal Democrats deeply conflicted about whether to continue to support the Senate bill. But ABC’s “Top Line” today, one leading liberal voice, Sen. Sherrod Brown, said he disagrees with former DNC Chairman Howard Dean’s contention that the Senate health care bill is no longer worth supporting.
“I know progressives around the country — and Howard Dean is one of them — and I know that people in the Senate like me are disappointed,” Brown, D-Ohio, told us. “Disappointed that there’s not a public option, disappointed that the Medicare buy-in appears … to not be a part of the bill that’s going to get to the president’s desk — although I emphasize we’re not giving up. We’re still in this fight to improve the bill.” “But … you can’t forget the insurance reforms, no pre-existing condition exclusions, no dropping people’s coverage who got sick and were too expensive for the insurance company. No more discrimination of women in terms of their premiums versus men. You know, I think you forget — I think Howard’s not thinking about the job-producing aspects of this bill.” He continued: “As Senator Kennedy said in his book, he said that the fight for reform never ends. And I’m not going — I’m not walking away after this bill passes and goes to the president’s desk, because there’s always more we need to do. But right now we need to focus on getting the best bill we can. If we quit we end up walking away with nothing.” “I agree with Howard on a lot of things, but I think this is too important to walk away from,” Brown said. Brown said he feels as if he’ll be able to get 70 percent of what he wanted in the final product: “Seventy percent, right, is a whole lot more than zero percent,” he said, “and I don’t want to give up on it. I, you know, we’ve made a lot of progress.” Brown said that Democratic leaders were pursuing a dual-track strategy of courting both Lieberman and Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, to get to 60 votes, but ultimately realized that no Republicans would be supportive. Still, he expressed frustration that Lieberman, I-Conn., has been able to exert as much influence over the bill as he has. Of the catering to Lieberman by getting rid of the Medicare expansion, he said, “that was unfortunate, and I’m extremely disappointed about that. I don’t use the word ‘extreme’ very much, but I’m extremely disappointed, of course, about that. Nobody saw any options to get to 60 votes; the Republicans didn’t want to play.” Brown also offered something of a warning to his former colleagues in the House, who are hoping to negotiate a more liberal-leaning final deal: “I think that it’s going to be tough to pass any bill in the Senate … that doesn’t look a lot like the bill that we seem to be coming to some consensus on in the Senate.” Watch the full interview with Sen. Sherrod Brown HERE. We also checked in with Ana Marie Cox of Air America about the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll — showing Obama with the lowest approval ratings of his presidency — plus liberals’ anger over the direction of health care talks. The “tea party” crowd — who held their latest event at the Capitol Tuesday — should be celebrating, not protesting, Cox said. “What are you here to protest? There’s no public option, there’s no expansion of Medicare, there’s very little of those philosophical differences that Sherrod Brown was talking about to really stake a claim on.” She also helped us cast the comic book version of the spat between Sarah Palin and Gov. Arnold Schwarzegger over global warming — with the future of the planet at stake, quite naturally. “Alaska Barbie vs. The Terminator,” Cox said. “You know who the real winner in that fight is? Steve Schmidt. … I imagine him kind of sitting at home reading the Facebook back and forth and, ‘Muhhahahaa!’ ” (And Cox reminds us that, in action-figure world, Schmidt would be played by Lobot.) Watch the “Top Line” segment with Ana Marie Cox HERE.