Rep. Cuellar: GOP Can Find ‘Common Ground’ with Dems to ‘Modify’ Health Care Law

Jan 5, 2011 2:46pm

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: Republicans took control of the House today with a vow to take down President Obama’s health care law, with an initial vote moving toward repeal to take place on Friday. But once that effort fails – and it will almost certainly never get taken up by the Senate to even force the president to wield his veto pen – GOP leaders may find some allies in moderate Democrats who are willing to re-craft major portions of the law. On ABC’s “Top Line” today, Rep. Henry Cuellar, a moderate Blue Dog Democrat who is a member of his party’s leadership in the House, said many Democrats are open to an attempt to “fine-tune the legislation,” and to tackle health care lawsuit abuse among other issues. “I’ll be the first one to say we ought to modify the bill, the legislation,” Cuellar said. “But just to repeal and then think about what we’re going to come up with — I don’t think that’s the right approach that the majority is taking.” He added: “To modify the legislation I think you find a lot of common ground, without a doubt. For example, remember, keep in mind — what passed was the Senate bill, not the House bill. There was no conference committee. I had some things for example that I had in the House Bill—tort reform, some of the language, duplicative programs—it passed the House, but never got to the Senate, it never got over here.” “There are areas that we can find common ground. But just to repeal and then start all over again — if you talk about creating uncertainty, that will create uncertainty.” Cuellar, vice chairman of the Democrats’ steering committee, also expressed skepticism about Republican vows to cut $100 billion – or, as party leaders are now suggesting, $50 billion – from the federal budget. “I think $100 billion is a lot of money. Before we set up an arbitrary number, we ought to see what programs, what agencies work and what don’t, and from there start making the cuts,” Cuellar said. “I believe that we ought to run government like a business. But the only big difference between running government like a business is that the population of the United States has grown a lot. We just got our census and there are still a lot of needs out there. I still think that we can cut. I don’t know if we can get up to the $100 billion, but we want to see their proposal and see their specific proposals.” Watch the full interview with Rep. Henry Cuellar HERE. We also checked in with The New York Times’ Jeff Zeleny, who broke the story today about White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs preparing to leave his job behind the podium. (And Zeleny gave us the inside story of what happens when the president calls your cell phone. Hint: The caller ID doesn’t say “Obama.”) Watch the “Top Line” segment with Jeff Zeleny HERE.

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