EXCLUSIVE: Biden Says White House Getting Earful from Nervous Lawmakers Over Health Care

Biden tells ABC News health care bill will stem Democratic losses in November.

ByABC News
March 18, 2010, 4:58 PM

March 18, 2010 — -- Vice President Joe Biden said today that vulnerable members of Congress, worried that the health care reform legislation will cost them their jobs, have expressed their frustrations to the White House and have been critical of how the issue has played out over the last year.

"They say, 'Well Joe, look man, I mean, you know, you guys haven't messaged this very well,'" Biden told ABC News' Jake Tapper in an exclusive interview in Durham, N.C. "And, 'You know, this thing has gone on so long.'"

Biden said his response to worried lawmakers is simple: "The proof of the pudding is in the eating."

"I'm telling you, you know, pre-existing [conditions], they're going to be covered. You know we're going to control the insurance companies," the vice president said. "You know people aren't going to lose their health care with their employer like is being advertised."

Biden said once these provisions take effect and the American people feel the impact, lawmakers who vote "yes" will reap the benefits.

"They're going to see right off the bat the horrible [things] aren't real and there are some very good things that become apparent immediately," Biden said. "Once the American public realizes that ... [legislators are] going to be rewarded."

A 36-year veteran of the Senate, Biden said he was sympathetic to the position some lawmakers are now in.

"I really, truly believe that the worst place to be, as a legislator, is being in the position where your side is being pummeled for an idea and there's misrepresentations about all the bad things the idea is going to generate," Biden said.

His advice to wavering members of Congress who have put in work on this legislation is: "If you really want to make sure that you get the benefit of what you've already done, vote for the bill."

While four major deadlines have come and gone on health care reform, Biden said it's not a reflection of public appetite for the bill, but rather Republican antagonism.

"This has been tough from day one. It's been tough for 40 years," he said. "Republicans have been very skillful in using legitimately every tactic in the book -- legitimate tactic -- every procedural way to slow down the process to prevent an up-and-down vote. And we're getting close. They're running out of runway."

To the vice president, news that President Obama cancelled his trip to Indonesia and Australia next week is not another missed deadline or an ominous sign for the prospects of the bill on Capitol Hill.

"What it symbolizes is the president of the United States thinks this is an incredibly important initiative and he should be in the country, in the States, when, in fact, the Congress votes on it," Biden said.

While jobs and health care took the political center stage today, Biden also was briefed by State Department official Dennis Ross on the Middle East.

Biden said the United States and Israel need to "get over" the latest flare-up in tensions and insisted that the essential elements of the relationship between the two nations remain the same.

"Israel's security is undeniably in our interest to make sure it is absolutely secure," the vice president said.

Biden called the Israeli announcement of new settlements last week "provocative" and said it was "obviously designed by some in Israel to undermine a peace process George Mitchell finally got -- our negotiator -- finally got back on track."

"And so the message is: We've got to get over this," Biden said. "Granted, I condemn the announcement made by that planning council. ... The irony is even that planning council acknowledging not a single new unit can be built at least for a year and maybe never will be built, it was provocative."

Biden denied a report that said he told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Israel's position on settlements puts U.S. troops at risk.

"No, I never said that," the vice president said.