- The Washington Times - Friday, July 17, 2009

EXCLUSIVE:

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Friday that Republicans are not opposed to health-care reform, just the plans proposed this week by the Democrat-controlled Congress.

“My hope is that people will realize this is a very disappointing bill,” Mr. Gingrich told The Washington Times America’s Morning News radio show. “But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t reform health care. It means we should find real reform — reform that will cost less money, reform that will liberate enough resources that we can extend insurance to every American.”

Mr. Gingrich, considered a potential 2012 presidential candidate, also said Republicans are in a good position, despite being outnumbered on Capitol Hill, because they could take the lead on health-care reform if the Democrats’ costly “left-wing” bills fail.

On Wednesday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee passed a $600 billion health-care reform bill.

House Democrats on Tuesday released a bill that requires all Americans to have coverage. The bill would cost $1.5 trillion over 10 years and would be paid through a surtax on the country’s most wealthiest residents. Like the Senate bill, the House legislation includes a public-insurance program that would compete with private insurers.

Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, added a mandate to the Senate legislation that forces him and other committee members to participate in the public plan.

Mr. Gingrich said Friday he wants the same for the House bill, expect that the commitment should also extended to congressional staffers.

President Obama has made health-care reform his top domestic priority. He wants to slow the rising costs by insuring roughly 46 million Americans without coverage and make the health-care industry more efficient. The president has pushed Congress to bring the legislation to a full floor vote before the August recess so he can sign legislation soon after their return.

However, the reform plans appear in jeopardy, following the Congressional Budget office saying on Thursday that the bill would not lower skyrocketing health-care costs.

And early Friday, the House Ways and Means Committee approved the provisions on the House bill that will impose $544 billion in new taxes over the next 10 years on families making more than $350,000 annually, despite Mr. Obama’s disapproval.

But Sen. Max Baucus, Montana Democrat, said the president “is not helping us” by opposing the tax on health benefits.

Mr. Gingrich said the Democrats’ pro-reform TV ads in such party strongholds as the District of Columbia shows “a sign of desperation.”

“This is a bad plan,” he said.

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