Hours after House Democrats narrowly advanced legislation to reshape the country’s health care system, Republicans and a key independent in the Senate on Sunday vowed to kill the measure unless it is radically altered.
“The House bill is dead on arrival in the Senate,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “It was a bill written by liberals, for liberals.”
Mr. Graham said that Senate moderates such as Joe Lieberman “are not going to get anywhere near the House bill.”
Mr. Lieberman, Connecticut independent, said that if the Senate version includes a government-sponsored “public option” insurance plan as in the House bill, “as a matter of conscience, I will not allow this bill to come to a final vote.”
“I believe the debt [caused by a public option] can break America and send us into a recession that’s worse than the one we’re fighting our way out of today,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”
The House late Saturday voted 220-215 to pass Democrat-crafted health care legislation. The bill drew the votes of 219 Democrats and only one Republican. Opposed were 176 Republicans and 39 Democrats.
The measure now moves to the Senate to begin a long-delayed debate on the issue that has come to overshadow all others in Congress.
Rep. Mike Pence, Indiana Republican, said passage of the Democratic measure with almost no Republican support means that the majority party has ignored the wishes of the American public.
“I think from this past summer we saw the American people express overwhelming opposition to a government takeover of health care,” Mr. Pence said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Last night on a narrow partisan vote, the Democrats put their liberal, big-government agenda ahead of the American people.”
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele said the Democrats’ rush to push through health care reform legislation will cost the party in future elections.
“The Democratic Party had better pay attention to what the people out here are saying,” Mr. Steele said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” You can no longer dismiss people by sitting on your cell phone when they’re talking to you or calling them un-American or making them feel like you don’t give a heck about what their concerns are.”
But Sen. Jack Reed, Rhode Island Democrat, predicted the measure would pass the Senate — though he stopped short of guaranteeing it would include the controversial public option provision.
“I hope that a public option is part of the final bill,” Mr. Reed said Sunday on “Face the Nation.” “There is a debate, or an active debate, about how the public option might come about.”
Mr. Reed dismissed Republican accusations that Democrats were running roughshod over Americans’ concerns about health care.
“Overwhelming, 60 percent of the American public want a public option, and I think we should be listening to them as much as listening to ourselves,” he said.
Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao, the only Republican to vote “yes” for the House bill, said he was initially skeptical of the measure, but decided to support it after House leaders late Friday inserted “strong language” prohibiting the federal funding of abortions.
“When that was worked out … I called the White House and said I could possibly support the bill,” he said Sunday on CNN.
Mr. Cao, a first-term lawmaker who holds an overwhelmingly Democratic seat in New Orleans, said he also supported the measure “because a lot of my constituents are uninsured, a lot of them are poor, and it was the right decision for the people of my district.”
President Obama on Sunday congratulated the House for its “historic” vote for health care reform and urged the Senate to follow suit.
“For years, we were told that this couldn’t be done … but last night the House proved differently,” Mr. Obama said during an early-afternoon news briefing at the White House Rose Garden.
The president, acknowledging that many moderate and conservative Democrats had been wary of supporting legislation that isn’t universally popular in their home districts, thanked the bill’s supporters for their “courageous” vote.
“Given the heated and often misleading rhetoric surrounding this legislation, I know that this was a courageous vote for many members of Congress,” he said. “I am grateful to them and for the rest of their colleagues for taking us this far.”
The president said the Senate now must “take the baton and bring this effort to the finish line.” He added that he is “absolutely confident” the chamber will pass the measure.
“I am equally convinced that on the day that we gather here at the White House, and I sign comprehensive health insurance reform legislation into law, they’ll be able to join their House colleagues and say this was their finest moment in public service,” he said.