- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said Tuesday that President Obama will get a strong health care reform bill, but he predicted Republicans would not support the measure regardless of its provisions.

Mr. Dean, a medical doctor scheduled to attend Democratic Rep. James P. Moran’s town hall in Northern Virginia on Tuesday night, is working with Democracy for America and other left-leaning groups to advocate for a taxpayer-funded “public” insurance option to be included in the final health bill that passes Congress.

“Were going to pass a bill, and the bill is going to have a public option,” Mr. Dean told The Washington Times in an interview Tuesday.

Mr. Dean, a former governor of Vermont, said he was sure Mr. Obama would push for a public option because “facts matter to him,” and without real reform, a bill is “just shoveling money into the insurance industry.”

Asked whether Republicans might support the final bill, Mr. Dean said: “I sadly doubt it. There may be one or two, but they will be browbeaten by their party.”

“I think they are going to vote ‘no’ on everything on principle,” he said.

In a March interview with The Washington Times, Mr. Dean called the president’s health care plan “perfect” and predicted that Republicans who try to label it “socialized medicine” would suffer at the polls in 2010.

Meanwhile on CNN, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele blasted Mr. Obama and congressional Democrats for shutting his party out of the negotiations.

“One party is in control of the entire process,” Mr. Steele said.

Mr. Dean said an overlooked element of the health care debate is that both the House and Senate agree on provisions that will help small businesses dramatically since the reform bills do not obligate them to buy health insurance for employees. The Senate version exempts businesses with fewer than 25 employees and offers a subsidy for low-income workers to buy their own coverage from one of the possible insurance plans, including a public option.

“This is a huge help to the small-business community,” he said, adding that the conservative Blue Dog Democrats are responsible for adding the provision to the House bill.

Since the spring Mr. Dean has served as an independent consultant at the Washington lobbying law firm McKenna Long & Aldridge.

Mr. Dean, a 2004 presidential candidate, said he has not been paying close attention to the Republican contenders for 2012 but believes Mr. Obama will be re-elected. But he said the shape of the next presidential race is already becoming clear.

“The field is shockingly well-formed at this point in the cycle,” Mr. Dean said.

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