- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 15, 2009

President Obama urged Senate Democrats on Tuesday to unify and pass a health-care-reform bill, even if it doesn’t have all the provisions lawmakers once wanted.

“There are still disagreements that have to be ironed out,” Mr. Obama told reporters after meeting with the Democratic Caucus at the White House. “I’m feeling cautiously optimistic that we can get this done.”

Democrats are closing in on the 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican filibuster and pass their health care reform bill, Mr. Obama’s top domestic priority.

On Monday, Democrats said they were ready to remove the public insurance option and a Medicare expansion from their health bill to appease apprehensive moderates, despite the potential of angering liberals.

Related TWT articles:
Senate Democrats move to cut Medicare buy-in
Lieberman: Closer to voting for health care reform

Just weeks ago, liberal Democrats argued that the government’s role was essential to bringing down health costs for all consumers. But as it became clear a bill with a strong government role wouldn’t get 60 votes, they highlighted other, less controversial parts of the bill, such as tougher insurance industry regulations.

“We agree on reforms that will make coverage affordable for 30 million Americans,” Mr. Obama said, citing the historic nature of the legislation.

Mr. Obama said the meeting was not a “roll call” but instead a conversation about the elements of the bill.

Democrats need every one of their 60 senators — including two independents who caucus with them — to vote for the bill. All 40 of the Senate Republicans oppose the legislation, even with the changes, Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Tuesday.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat and majority whip, said before leaving for the White House that the changes to the health bill “moves us closer” to obtaining 60 votes.

Shortly before Mr. Obama spoke, Republicans dismissed Democrats’ argument that the bill would be the most significant social legislation since the Great Depression.

“Many things that have happened in history are not so good,” Mr. McConnell said.

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