Rockefeller slams Dean: 'Nonsense,' 'irresponsible'

Former DNC Chairman Howard Dean's calls to kill the Senate healthcare bill are "nonsense" and "irresponsible," Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said Wednesday.

Rockefeller, one of the most ardent supporters of the public option in the Senate, sharply broke with Dean, a physician and former Democratic National Committee chairman, who said that Democrats should kill the Senate's health bill because it doesn't contain a public option or Medicare buy-in.

"It's nonsense and it's irresponsible and coming from him as a physician, it's stunning," Rockefeller said during an appearance on MSNBC.

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Dean's call to ditch the current reform efforts drew wide-eyed responses from Republicans and Democrats alike.

Rockefeller said that compromises would be necessary, and that Democrats would come back with more attempts at health reform, perhaps as often as every year.

"Am I angry that the public option appears to have been dropped? Of course I'm angry. Was I for Medicare buy-in? Of course I was," Rockefeller argued. "So what do I do? Do I take my football and go home and sob and complain?"

"No, I look at the bill and say what is in the interest of the people in my state," he added.

Rockefeller signaled an interest in compromising on any number of issues in order to pass a bill, including restrictions on federal subsidies for health plans covering abortion, as Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) has demanded.

"We need 60 votes and therefore let's try to resolve the abortion issue," he explained. "If I have to choose between those things, I say go with the bigger picture."

He also suggested Democrats would seek to further their reform effort more frequently in the future, as well.

"Before, it was healthcare every 15 years," Rockefeller said. "From now on it's going to be every single year."