- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 19, 2009

MoveOn.org on Friday joined a growing chorus of liberal muscle opposed to the Senate’s health care overhaul, as Republicans blasted Democratic leaders for holding secret talks and hiding pending amendments - not giving them or the American public time to review the measure before a possible vote early Monday.

The move by the fundraising power, which said the lack of a government-run insurance option makes the bill too weak to lower the nation’s health care costs, came a day after a coalition of the nation’s biggest unions, which provide campaign foot soldiers and donations to Democrats, jumped ship on the Democrats’ bill.

Republicans warned they would do everything to stop the bill’s passage.

“This massive piece of legislation that seeks to restructure one-sixth of our economy is being written behind closed doors without input from anyone in an effort to jam it past not only the Senate but the American people before Christmas,” said Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

Democratic leaders are preparing to release a package of final amendments and a cost analysis of their health care bill on Saturday and are planning for a vote shortly after midnight on Sunday.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada is still trying to tack down commitments from all 60 members of the Democratic caucus. Sen. Ben Nelson, Nebraska Democrat, on Friday said he still hasn’t reached a compromise on the legislation’s abortion language, leaving Mr. Reid one vote shy of overcoming a potential filibuster. Mr. Nelson is trying to ensure the measure won’t allow federal dollars to be used for abortions, a move backed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The Bishops wielded their clout to prevent federal funding of abortion in the House bill in a battle that threatened passage of its version and angered the chamber’s liberal caucus.

In the search for a vote, President Obama and Democratic leaders have been courting moderate Republican Sen. Olympia J. Snowe of Maine. But she says the push for Mr. Obama’s top agenda item is moving too fast. She remains noncommittal and wants more time to look at changes to the bill.

Republicans are uniformly against the Democrats’ reform plans, and the left-leaning groups are applying pressure on Democratic lawmakers from the other side. MoveOn added heft to opposition from former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, a physician and liberal leader, who knocked the bill as unsupportable earlier this week.

“But it’s not too late to fix the bill,” the group said in a e-mail to members. “And as Joe Lieberman has shown, just one senator willing to stand in the way can force legislation to be changed dramatically.”

The group petitioned liberal Democrats to oppose the bill in hopes of being able to change it. Senate Democratic leaders removed the public insurance plan to win over the support of at least one moderate, Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent.

Mr. Dean said that a strong public option is the only way to force private insurance companies to reduce health care costs.

“If I were a senator, I would not vote for the current health care bill,” Mr. Dean, a former governor of Vermont, wrote in an opinion piece in The Washington Post this week.

The AFL-CIO, a coalition of labor unions, said it opposes the bill because of the tax it would impose on high-valued insurance plan. Its members worry their insurance plans would be hit by the tax.

Senate Democrats say that although they wanted the public option or Medicare expansion in the bill, they view the legislation as a framework and don’t want to end up with no bill at all.

“There’s enough good in this bill even without those two that we have to move it,” Sen. Tom Harkin, Iowa Democrat and chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said this week.

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