Brown Withholds Support on Emerging Health Bill

Posted December 15, 2009 at 1:10pm

Liberal Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) on Tuesday indicated he is withholding support for Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) health care reform package in the wake of moves to drop the public insurance option and a proposal to expand Medicare aimed at satisfying Democratic moderates.

Brown, speaking to reporters on his way to a meeting of Senate Democrats with President Barack Obama, said he understands the bind Democrats are in, given the need for 60 votes to break a GOP-led filibuster. But Brown said he wants to review the final bill before making any decision on whether to support the package.

“I’m continuing to talk to people. I want to see what the bill looks like,— Brown said. “It’s a very good bill; it could be better and we’re going to keep fighting to make it better.—

The Tuesday afternoon White House meeting is expected to focus on Democratic unity, with Obama likely to tell the 60 Democrats they should support the bill even if they believe it is missing key provisions and is less than perfect.

Brown had said previously that he would not vote for a bill that excluded the public insurance option, and he expressed deep frustration that a few moderate Democrats held so much sway over the final product.

Democratic Senators said they expected the meeting with Obama to be positive. The majority is hoping to wrap up the health care debate and clear a bill off of the floor before Christmas, and Members were hoping that the discussion with the president would propel that effort.

“I think people are ready to get this done and do something for the American people,— Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said. “I’m hopeful it will be a positive meeting — but not a pep rally.—

Meanwhile, Democratic Sens. Bob Casey (Pa.) and Ben Nelson (Neb.), who are both anti-abortion rights, said progress is being made on compromise language that would prohibit federal funding of abortions through health care reform without alienating pro-abortion rights Democrats.

Nelson said he spoke to Reid and the president on Tuesday, and sounded optimistic the issue could be resolved.

“Sen. Reid and I spoke today and I think he feels he’s making progress,— Nelson said, just before departing for the White House.

The Nebraska Democrat has said he will filibuster any bill that does not include abortion language similar to what is in the House package. An amendment Nelson offered on the subject was defeated last week.

Although Casey has not drawn a similar line in the sand, he voted for Nelson’s amendment and has been working on the compromise language. “We’ve still got some work to do,— he said.