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  Liberals Outraged By White House Tactics In Health Debate  

As the Senate races to pass a healthcare reform bill before Christmas, media coverage is focusing on criticism of the White House's approach to the debate – criticism that is now coming from liberals in the President's own party. The CBS Evening News (12/16, lead story, 3:10, Cordes), in its lead story, described Democrats are "predictably outraged" at Republican tactics, but added that "many Democrats are even more frustrated with their own party and their President for 'caving,' as they see it, to moderate demands that the public option be removed from the bill." Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) said, "I don't think that I've ever seen a national debate on a big issue like this where the President's kind of sat back and said 'okay, whatever you guys decide up on Capitol Hill, we're going to go with.'"


        The Washington Times (12/17, Miller) reports that "when Mr. Obama this week gave tacit approval as Senate Democrats dropped the 'public insurance' option from their healthcare bill and top House Democrats fell in line, liberal lawmakers accused the president of losing control of the debate." Rep. Weiner said, "We need the president to stand up for the values our party shares. We must stop letting the tail wag the dog of this debate."


        Howard Dean, in an op-ed in the Washington Post (12/17), writes, "If I were a senator, I would not vote for the current healthcare bill. ... The legislation does have some good points," but "I reluctantly conclude that, as it stands, this bill would do more harm than good to the future of America." The AP (12/17) reports that speaking to reporters, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs rejected a call by Howard Dean "to defeat the current Senate healthcare bill." Dean "said the bill was an 'insurance company's dream,'" but Gibbs retorted that if that's the case "I don't think the insurance companies have gotten the memo."


        Meanwhile, The Hill (12/17, O'Brien, subscription required) reports that "in a post to the official White House blog, Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer took on liberals' assertions that the Senate healthcare bill doesn't do enough on healthcare reform and should be killed." The Hill adds that "the blog is an unusual tack for Pfeiffer and the White House, though. In recent days, Pfeiffer and other senior Obama Administration officials have used the White House blog as a platform to go after insurance companies and Republicans, not fellow Democrats." Pfeiffer "defended the Senate's bill as a 'hugely successful' bid at expanding healthcare and making it more affordable."


        Politico (12/17, Gordon) reports that "more than anything else in...Obama's presidency so far, health reform has exposed a get-a-deal-at-any-cost side of Obama that infuriates his party's progressives." Wednesday, "some liberals could barely hide their sense of betrayal that the White House and congressional Democrats have been willing to cut deals and water down what they consider the ideal vision of reform.


National Underwriter Life and Health (12/17, Postal) reports that officials of the National Association of Health Underwriters and the American Benefits Council say the "Senate is ignoring the interests of the current employer-based healthcare insurance system in its draft of reform legislation. ... 'If the bill passes in its present form, jobs will be lost or not offered, particularly in the lower-income levels,'" NAHU VP John Greene said. "In a letter to all members of the Senate," ABC President James Klein voiced concerns about a provision that calls for a "tax on retiree drug subsidies as well as provision imposing annual taxes on insurers, self-insured plans" and other providers. Klein also asked that the tax on "Cadillac plans be made fairer and 'less disruptive.'"


The Wall Street Journal (12/17, A8, Adamy, subscription required) reports on a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll which found that 44% of Americans polled would rather no healthcare reform be passed than the current one. Forty-one percent feel it is better to pass the plan. Two months ago, 45% wanted the bill to pass while 39% opposed any bill. Those who have grown less supportive of the plan include the uninsured, the Journal noted.


The Washington Post (12/17, Hilzenrath) reports, "The Senate healthcare bill could enable insurers to avoid some of the strongest consumer protections and benefit requirements adopted by state governments," because it "would allow insurers to sell policies across state lines, subject to the laws and regulations in a state of the insurers' choosing, 31 Democratic House members said in a letter Tuesday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV)." Opponents say it would lead to "a race to the bottom in insurance regulation," but supporters of "interstate compacts for the sale of insurance," argue that they "could increase competition and reduce premiums." Also, the bill "would put some hurdles in the way of any 'race to the bottom,'" by requiring that states "join interstate compacts only by enacting a state law."

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