Published July 26, 2009
Senate Democrats are going to need help from Republicans to get President Obama's ambitious plan to reinvent the health care system over the goal line, a top lawmaker acknowledged on Sunday.
"Look, there are not the votes for Democrats to do this just on our side of the aisle," said Sen. Kent Conrad, the chairman of the powerful budget committee.
Even though the Democrats enjoy a majority in the Senate, some are skittish about the financial or political costs of the proposals.
And Republicans said they will continue their opposition to a plan they claim is simply a government takeover of private decisions.
"Republicans want to protect the right of Americans to make their own health care decisions, to pick their own doctors and their own plans," said Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C. "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."
Both sides said they want to improve the system and provide care for almost 50 million Americans who lack health insurance coverage, but they remain deeply divided over how to reach that goal. Republicans said the longer the delay, the more the public understands the stakes of a policy that has vexed lawmakers for decades.
Democrats countered that their plans would expand coverage without adding to the deficit. Even so, they are likely to leave for an August recess without a vote.
Gibbs said he doesn't know whether the House will vote this week but added that the White House will make an evaluation during the week to determine whether enough progress is being made to allow lawmakers to leave for their August recess.
"The president's test is whether or not we're making progress," he told FOX News. "As long as we see progress, I think we can get comprehensive health care by the fall."
That final piece, however, will require GOP backing -- something Sen. Mitch McConnell said was unlikely. The Senate minority leader said congressional Democrats are having difficulty selling a health care bill to their own members.
"The only thing bipartisan about the measure so far is the opposition to it," said McConnell, R-Ky.
Sen. John Kyl, R-Ariz., told FOX News that it doesn't look likely that the Senate Finance Committee will complete their version this week.
"I think it's unlikely we will produce a bill before the August recess," he said. "That's a good thing. A good thing to go home in August and hear what constituents think we need to do."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, meanwhile, said she has the votes in her chamber to move forward with the plan despite the same concerns among fiscally conservative fellow Democrats.
"When I take this bill to the floor, it will win. We will move forward, it will happen," Pelosi said.
DeMint and Conrad spoke with ABC's "This Week." Gibbs appeared on "Fox News Sunday." McConnell and Pelosi were interviewed for CNN's "State of the Union."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.