A key Senate Democrat said Sunday that passing a major health-care bill is impossible without Republican support, though the chamber’s top Republicans were not forthcoming with such support on the weekend’s political talk shows.
“Look, there are not the votes for Democrats to do this just on our side of the aisle,” said Sen. Kent Conrad, North Dakota Democrat and a member of the Senate Finance Committee crafting the bill.
But both the top Senate Republican and one of the most vigorous conservative critics of President Obama’s health-care agenda stood firm by their argument that the Democratic health care proposals amount to a government takeover and have leveraged concerns from conservative Democrats in their opposition.
“The only thing bipartisan about the measures so far is the opposition to them,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday on CNN.
“Republicans want to protect the right of Americans to make their own health care decisions, to pick their own doctors and their own plans,” added Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican. “We could have a plan in a few weeks if the goal is not a government takeover. We’ve never seen the government operate a plan of any kind effectively and at the budgets we talked about.”
Congressional Democratic leaders continued to be optimistic about passing a health care bill this year Sunday morning as a top adviser to Mr. Obama said he expected Congress would still go on vacation in August.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has pushed an aggressive timeline for passing health care legislation from her chamber, said she will not see a repeat of the health care proposal which failed in 1994.
“When I take this bill to the floor, it will win,” Mrs. Pelosi said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union with John King, when asked whether she had enough votes to pass the measure.
“I think the American people want us to perform. They need this. This is urgent,” Mrs. Pelosi said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he expects that a bill would not be passed until after Congress returns from its August recess, amid continued wrangling over how to pay for a health care plan and questions about whether a public option would be included.
The rift over health care, which has split off many moderate to conservative Democrats both Senate and House leaders would need to pass any proposal, has led to speculation that Congress might work through its August recess.
But Congress will still be able to take a vacation, amid the continual public lobbying of Mr. Obama, said White House adviser David Axelrod on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
Mr. Conrad would not say whether his panel would advance a proposal to the full chamber before Congress recesses on August 7.