Durbin Says ‘Buy-In’ Is Out; Obama Is ‘Cautiously Optimistic’

Posted December 15, 2009 at 3:31pm

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Tuesday that it is his “understanding— that the Medicare “buy-in— proposal that would lower the eligibility age to 55 is out of the health care reform bill. But Durbin, who spoke after a White House meeting between President Barack Obama and the Senate Democratic Conference, added that he does not believe he will lose liberal Senators’ votes with the new version of the bill, which will not include the buy-in or the public insurance option cherished by progressives.“We had a caucus yesterday, and many of us who are on that side of the caucus really felt like we had to weigh on balance what remains, and we just don’t want to lose the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,— Durbin said. He acknowledged that he and other liberals “are not happy— with how the legislation has progressed but emphasized that many of liberals’ long-standing goals are being met by the bill.Durbin said he believed the Senate would pass the legislation by Christmas, but he ruled out having both the House and Senate vote on final versions before then.In remarks at the White House, Obama said he was “cautiously optimistic— that the Senate would pass the legislation. Obama emphasized areas of agreement and asserted that Democrats need to come together now behind the measure.“The final bill won’t include everything that everybody wants,— Obama said.Nevertheless, both Obama and Durbin acknowledged that work needs to be done to corral 60 votes in the Senate.“We are still working with a few Senators who have not made a commitment, and until the commitments and votes are made, we’re going to keep working,— Durbin said.Obama opened the meeting with the caucus with remarks, speaking about “the importance of getting this issue done— and why it should happen now, according to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. Obama went through provisions of the bill, asserting that it increases health insurance affordability and accessibility, reduces the growth in health care costs, helps the deficit, reforms insurance practices and provides greater coverage for 30 million people, Gibbs said.Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.), who caucuses with the Democrats but has withheld his vote so far from the bill, was at the White House meeting, Gibbs said.