McCain Says Obama, Congress Must Move Past ‘Unsavory Deals’

Posted February 28, 2010 at 10:27am

Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the 2008 GOP presidential nominee, said Sunday that backroom deals have marred the debate over health care reform and poisoned the public’s attitude toward the legislation.

“Overwhelmingly the American people are saying stop and start over,” McCain said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” He added, “They don’t like these cynical deals.”

McCain specifically said the insurance industry and drugmakers had benefited from “cynical deals” designed to draw their support for the legislation.

“These were unsavory deals … done behind closed doors,” according to McCain.

“People object to the process as much as to the product,” McCain said.

Nancy-Ann DeParle, the president’s senior health care adviser, pointed to critical advertising campaigns by insurers as a sign that they had not been bought off with any deals.

“I’m not sure what he’s talking about with deals with insurance companies,” she said on “Meet the Press.”

McCain said he hoped last week’s health care summit at the Blair House could be “the basis for some good negotiations,” but said that would be undercut if Democrats tried to move the health care reform bill under reconciliation protections requiring just a simple majority in the Senate. McCain said he and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) would unveil legislation limiting the use of reconciliation related to entitlement programs.

“Let’s start over,” McCain said, citing malpractice reform and allowing insurers to sell across state lines as reforms Republicans could support. “We want to sit down and have negotiations. We have a positive agenda.”

DeParle said the notion of starting over was “code” for doing nothing.

She said the president would have more to say this week on how Congress should proceed but suggested there was public support for the ingredients of the legislation and that the votes would be found in Congress.