Key House Liberal: Senate Health Care Deal ‘Irreconcilable’ with House

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: Even as Senate Democrats scramble to find a health care bill that can draw 60 votes, leading liberals in the House are voicing frustration with the direction of negotiations -- and are threatening to sink the entire bill if the latest Senate compromise holds.

On ABC’s “Top Line” today , Rep. Raul Grijalva , the co-chairman of the House Progressive Caucus, said he and his fellow progressives don’t support the idea of trading a “public option” for an expansion in the Medicare program.

Even that compromise may have to get watered down, giving Sen. Joe Lieberman’s newly communicated opposition to the Medicare expansion.

Of the House-passed version and the bill emerging out of the Senate, Grijalva said: “They are irreconcilable. And if we get something from the Senate that basically replicates what we have now in the [health care] system, I think it’s going to have a difficult time, if not an impossible time, getting through the House.”

Grijalva, D-Ariz., said he sees little chance of finishing health care this year -- and urged Democratic leaders to slow things down to allow all voices to be heard.

“I don’t see that till after the new year, and after we return from our break, because I think there are too many questions,” he said. “And to try to steamroll something where there is no conference, where there is no real debate about the content, I think would be a serious mistake. And it’s something that I and many colleagues could not support.”

Grijalva said the 80-plus members of the progressive caucus will insist on a conference committee to work out differences between the House and Senate bills, despite talk of using the so-called “ping-pong” legislative strategy that would send the Senate-passed bill directly to the House floor for an up-or-down vote.

“We need to have a conference. This cannot occur without a conference,” he said. “And then, today, with the Lieberman announcement that basically guts any issue dealing with what pretends to be a public option or the Medicare buy-in basically challenges that and in fact threatens that, then any conference -- anything that comes out of the Senate would be devoid of what was in the House bill, and so a conference is required. We’re concerned about taxing health benefits, we’re concerned about not having a public option that’s defined.”

We also chatted with Christina Bellantoni of Talking Points Memo on today’s “Top Line” about the latest in the health care debate, plus President Obama’s meeting with some of the nation’s top bankers. Bellantoni called Lieberman’s announcement a “huge deal,” and said it’s amplifying calls among Democrats for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to essentially cut Lieberman off moving forward: “I think that a lot of people wanted to see Harry Reid give up on him a long time ago.”

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