Schwarzenegger Supports Health Overhaul Goals
ERICA WERNER | The Associated Press via YellowBrix
October 07, 2009
WASHINGTON — California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger praised President Barack Obama’s drive to overhaul the nation’s health care system on Tuesday and urged fellow Republicans to join in efforts to finish the job this year.
Although Schwarzenegger stopped short of embracing a Democratic bill, his words of encouragement came on the heels of similar statements from other Republicans outside Congress, including former Senate Republican leader Bill Frist. The White House and Democrats highlighted them as evidence of momentum and division within GOP ranks. Congressional Republicans have been nearly unanimous in opposition to Democratic legislation.
Schwarzenegger, who two years ago tried but failed to pass a universal health care plan in California, said in a statement that he appreciated Obama’s partnership with the states and his effort to hold down costs and improve quality. He urged lawmakers from both parties to “move forward and accomplish these vital goals for the American people.”
Congressional Republicans responded that they have been calling for health care improvements for months — just not the kind that Democrats are offering.
“Americans want commonsense reform,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a speech on the Senate floor, arguing that Democratic plans would expand government control, raise taxes on the middle class and cut Medicare benefits.
Tommy Thompson, who headed the Health and Human Services Department under President George W. Bush, said Monday the Senate Finance Committee bill “is another important step toward achieving the goal of health care reform.” Frist, a heart surgeon, told Time magazine he would vote for the committee bill if he were still in Congress. However, both Frist and Thompson said they thought the bill could be improved.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a political independent first elected as a Republican, said Monday that health care legislation deserves support across the political spectrum.
Questioned about the disparate Republican voices, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said, “I hope that Republicans in Washington hear the message of Republicans all over the country that it’s time to come in off the sidelines and actively get involved in making some serious progress on health care reform this year.”
A bipartisan health care solution has long been Obama’s stated goal but now appears nearly out of reach. No GOP House members and only one Republican in the Senate — Olympia Snowe of Maine — are seen as a possible “yes” vote.