- The Washington Times - Monday, July 27, 2009

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,” Sen. Kent Conrad, North Dakota Democrat and a member of the Senate Finance Committee crafting the bill, said on ABC’s “This Week.”

On the House side, Rep. Jim Cooper, Tennessee Democrat and a member of the fiscally conservative Blue Dogs, was just as doubtful about his chamber’s ability to pass a proposal despite the comfortable Democratic majority.

“I don’t believe so,” he said when asked on CBS’s “Face the Nation” when asked whether the votes in the House existed to pass a bill now. “I think that the American people want to take a closer look at this legislation. They want to feel comfortable with it.”

“We have a long way to go,” he said. “We have agreement on 70 or 80 percent of the legislation, but it is important we get the other details right, too.”

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 leveraged concerns of 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’s “State of the Union.”

Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican, weighed in on ABC.

“Republicans want to protect the right of Americans to make their own health care decisions, to pick their own doctors and their own plans,” Mr. DeMint said. “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.”

Some congressional Democratic leaders continued to voice optimism Sunday morning about passing a health care bill this year. And David Axelrod, 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 time line for passing health care legislation from her chamber, said she will not see a repeat of the health care proposal that failed in 1994.

“When I take this bill to the floor, it will win,” Mrs. Pelosi said Sunday on CNN, 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.”

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 the break.

Mr. Conrad would not say whether his panel would advance a proposal to the full chamber before Congress recesses Aug. 7.

But Mr. Axelrod said on CBS that Congress will still be able to take a vacation, amid the continual public lobbying of Mr. Obama.

Mr. Axelrod and White House spokesman Robert Gibbs both used versions of the claim that there is “80 percent” agreement on what will be in the final Democratic health care plan.

“Now, we’re at the final 20 percent,” Mr. Axelrod said, “and we’re trying to work through those details.”

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