Democrats weigh two options to pass health bill - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Democrats weigh two options to pass health bill

With hardened positions well staked out before the meeting, the president and his Democratic allies prepared to move on alone -- a gamble with political risks no matter how they do that.

One option -- preferred by the White House and progressives in the Democratic caucus -- is to try to pass a comprehensive plan without GOP support, by using controversial Senate budget reconciliation rules that would disallow filibusters. GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander asked Democrats to swear off a jam-it-through approach, while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., defended it.

Obama weighed in with gentle chiding, asking both sides to focus on substance and worry about process later -- a plea he made repeatedly throughout the day with little success.

A USA Today/Gallup survey released Thursday found Americans tilt 49-42 against Democrats forging ahead by themselves without any GOP support. Opposition was even stronger to the idea of Senate Democrats using the special budget rules, with 52 percent opposed and 39 percent in favor.

A second alternative for Obama and his party is going smaller, with a modest bill that would merely smooth some of the rough edges from the current system. A month after the Massachusetts election that cost Democrats their Senate supermajority and threw the health legislation in doubt, the White House has developed its own slimmed-down health care proposal so the president will know what the impact would be if he chooses that route, according to a Democratic official familiar with the discussions.

That official could not provide details, but Democrats have looked at approaches including expanding Medicaid and allowing children to stay on their parents' health plans until around age 26.

Obama himself hinted at a Democrats-only strategy. When asked by reporters as he walked to the summit site if he had a Plan B, he responded: "I've always got plans."

Many lawmakers and Obama stressed areas of agreement, including items such as allowing parents to keep young adult children on their health plans into their 20s, cutting fraud and waste, and ensuring that sick people aren't dropped by insurance companies.

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