A Democratic congressman who resisted “Clintoncare” back in the 90’s but supports “Obamacare,” Tennessee Rep. Jim Cooper feels he has seen this movie before: streams of lobbyists hitting the halls of Congress to try to influence democratic plans for health care reform.
Cooper puts it this way: "It is sort of a Super Bowl of lobbying for health care reform. The lobbyists are winning so far. But the game's not over yet."
The Center for Responsive Politics estimates that the health care sector has spent more than a quarter billion dollars on lobbying this one issue… so far this year.
Many of the lobbyists are former members of Congress or former staffers. They’re the Terrell Owens and Tom Brady of lobbying. And they’ve hit the field big time.
Lawmakers are hard at work trying to keep the ball rolling on health care reform. The next big hurdle is the so-called public option – a government-run insurer to compete with private plans.
There are five proposals on the table right now in both houses of Congress. The one passed on Tuesday by the Senate Finance Committee is the only plan that does not include a public option.
New York Rep. Anthony Weiner is pushing hard for the public option. He spoke to John Roberts on CNN’s “American Morning” Thursday. Below is an edited transcript of that interview.
John Roberts: There are big protests from liberal Democrats and unions over the bill passed by the Senate Finance Committee the other day – the so-called Baucus Bill. Why is it unacceptable to you?
Anthony Weiner: Well, because it fails on a fundamental level, and that is to provide competition and choice for consumers who are looking for health insurance. Look, it's a relatively easy thing to do to provide people subsidies to go buy insurance, but if the insurance companies do what they traditionally have done and what they promise to do in the future, which is keep raising rates, you need to have the public option not only to save money in the bill but to provide true competition.
Roberts: In an interview with New York magazine earlier this week, you said the Baucus Bill is “effectively dead.” What is the basis for that claim?
Weiner: It simply doesn't have the votes to pass in the House of Representatives. I'm not even sure it has the votes to pass in the Senate. I estimate that they might lose as many as 100 votes if they leave out a public option. I recently launched a Web site – countdowntohealthcare.com where I asked people to sign up to put pressure on some of my more moderate colleagues. 30,000 people, many of them from red states, have said that they want a public option. I think it's where the sentiment is going, but it's also where the votes are in the House and I think in the Senate.
You've heard the term "near death' experience, but imagine having an actual death experience then coming back to tell the story.
That's what happened to a high school football referee. He collapsed on the field with no heartbeat for nearly three minutes. Watch as he tells our Dr. Sanjay Gupta what he saw as he slipped away to the other side.
Program Note: Join Dr. Sanjay Gupta as he examines the medical miracles that are saving lives in the face of death on “Cheating Death,” Sat. & Sun. 8 p.m. ET.