As President Obama prodded Democratic congressional leaders Wednesday to finish health care legislation, Rep. Anthony Weiner gave a stern warning to the White House: “We don’t like negotiating with a gun to our head.”
Mr. Weiner, New York Democrat, issued the warning in a statement just prior to Mr. Obama’s meeting with House and Senate leaders about merging the two chambers’ health care bills. The statement by one of the House’s leading liberal voices underscores deep divisions among Democrats over how the final bill deals with funding for abortions, a government-run health insurance option and other hot-button issues.
“The House has shown deference to the Senate in this process. But I am tired of hearing how hard it was to get 60 votes in the Senate — getting 218 votes to pass our health care bill in the House wasnt easy, Mr. Weiner said.
He echoed other Democratic House members who insist the House bill “is better for the American people,” though Senate Democrats came up with a more moderate version after intense deal-making to win the 60 votes needed for passage in that chamber.
Mr. Weiner’s warning gave voice to liberal House Democrats’ rising resentment to being forced to accept the bulk of the Senate bill, which does not include the public option coveted by liberals and imposes an excise tax on health insurance companies that critics say will increase premiums for middle-class families. He also took a veiled swipe at the concession given to moderate Senate Democrat Ben Nelson, whose home state of Nebraska was given a special break on Medicaid costs in the Senate version.
The House bill, by contrast, “includes a public option that provides choice and competition and lower costs, Medicaid relief to all states — not just one — and doesnt tax health care plans that many middle-class Americans have, Mr. Weiner said.
Steven A Miller
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