Biden Makes Case for Public Health Care Plan

Posted June 14, 2009 at 10:57am

Vice President Joseph Biden said the White House is firmly behind a public health insurance option and strongly against taxing employee health benefits, but he refused to draw a line in the sand on either.

Biden, who appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press,— suggested that President Barack Obama will be flexible in his approach to the health bill and that he will make a judgment on its overall quality, not because of any one issue.

“The bill that comes, the president going to look at the totality of the bill,— Biden said. But he expressed strong preference for the options Obama has put on the table.

“We’ve made it clear that we think there should be a public plan,— Biden said, though he indicated Obama would consider various ideas about how to structure a government insurance option.

Biden noted that Obama has proposed to pay for the proposal by curtailing tax deductions for those earning higher incomes, saying the administration remains opposed to establishing a tax on employee benefits.

“We’ve made it clear that we do not thing that’s the way to go,— Biden said of proposals in Congress to end the exclusion. “We think that’s the wrong way to finance this legislation.”

Senate leaders on both sides of the aisle dodged questions Sunday over whether they would support taxes on existing health insurance to fund heath care reforms.

In separate appearances on CBS’ “Face the Nation,— Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) refused to directly answer whether they would support a new tax if it is included in the health care package being prepared in the Senate.

“How much you might need in terms of revenue depends on what you decide to do,— McConnell said.

Durbin said he agreed with Biden: “Vice President Biden said this is not the best approach, and I agree with him.— But Durbin would not say whether he would nonetheless support such a tax.

“It wouldn’t be easy for me to do. … I’m not sure, I’d have to see what it does,— Durbin later added.

McConnell derided the potential for a government-run health care option, stating: “I think that for virtually every Republican a government plan is a non-starter.—

He also addressed the upcoming confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, saying Republicans have not ruled out use of the filibuster to block her nomination.

“It’s way too early to be talking about whether anybody opposes this nominee,— McConnell said.

The vice president addressed a number of other issues including his political future, declining to say he has given up his ambition to be president.

“I won’t rule that out,— Biden said of another run at the office, though he also strongly praised the job President Obama is doing.

Biden also defended administration calculations that the stimulus has “saved or created— 150,000 jobs and would save or create another 600,000 jobs this summers, saying the estimates are based on an econometric model “no one has questioned.—

He suggested that the administration’s economic program is already working, saying the economy is getting better. “Housing is starting to improve. Lending is starting to come forward,— he said.

Biden also said Obama would not allow Iran to become a nuclear power.

“He’s going to stop— Iran, Biden said. “We are not going to allow Iran to go nuclear.—

The vice president expressed satisfaction with the way Obama is treating him, saying the president has consulted closely with him — as promised — on major decisions. “He’s kept his end of the bargain.—