Washington (CNSNews.com) - House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) admitted Tuesday that there is dissension among House Democrats about whether the final health-care reform bill should include federal funding for abortions -- so much so, that the issue is still under discussion in the Democratic Caucus.
“There are very strong feelings on both sides of that issue, and we are working to resolve them so we have the votes to pass this bill,” Hoyer said at his weekly pen-and-pad news conference on Capitol Hill.
Hoyer also assured reporters that he believes a “public option” for government-funded health care would be part of the final bill, but said that the details are still the subject of negotiations with conservative Blue Dog Democrats, who don’t want the government-run insurance mandate.
“I think there’s going to be a public option,” he said. “And I don’t think the pubic option is a non-negotiable item for the Blue Dogs. They have certain things they want to see in a public option – they’d like to see the trigger, but I don’t think that is going to happen. But they also want to see a level playing field and I think that, to the extent that we can affect, it’s going to happen. So there are ways and means of moving forward on that.”
Hoyer, meanwhile, echoed President Obama, who expressed confidence Monday that Congress was “closer than ever before” to reaching agreement on the health-care reform bill.
“Everybody wants to see a health-care reform bill that they can vote for,” Hoyer said. “I don’t think there are any of you that have found anybody that says ‘I don’t want to do health-care reform.’”
But the majority leader clarified, however, that he was referring only to Democratic lawmakers and blasted congressional Republicans of wanting the bill to fail “without considering the needs of the American people.”
“I’m not talking about the Republican side,” Hoyer said. “I’m talking about our side of the aisle. On the Republican side of the aisle, as I’ve told you, they want us to fail.
“Their (Republicans’) interest is much more in making failure happen than progress for the American people,” he said.
Hoyer specifically cited Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.)’s vocal opposition to the Democrat-sponsored health-care reform bill as evidence of Republican intentions, quoting DeMint as saying, “’If we re able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him.’”
According to Hoyer, DeMint’s comment “is consistent with the Luntz memo, and consistent with what, clearly, the Republicans are trying to do.”
Hoyer was referring to a strategy memo written by Republican pollster Frank Luntz, “The Language of Healthcare 2009,” which counseled the GOP with 10 points on how to frame its response to the Democratic health-care plan.
Ironically, Luntz’ memo is a Republican counterpart to a June 2008 memo by Democratic pollster Celinda Lake – “How to Talk About Health Care Reform” -- which counseled “progressives” (liberals) on what language to use to the American public to sell health-care reform.
Hoyer, who did not mention Lake’s strategy memo, did follow the strategy it laid out Tuesday, saying Republicans “were opposed to a health-care bill that, clearly, Americans want – and they have indicated that in poll after poll.”
“(Republicans) want us to fail notwithstanding the fact that our failure will be the failure to get the American public fully involve in the security of health-care coverage,” Hoyer said.
According the latest polls, however, American approval for President Obama’s handling of health-care reform has fallen to 49 per cent while disapproval has reached 44 per cent, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News Poll.
In addition, a new USA Today/Gallup poll shows that 50 per cent of Americans disapprove while 44 per cent approve of Obama’s approach to health-care reform.