Healthcare reform not dead, says Van Hollen; Boehner says fight continues

Healthcare is not dead, according to a high-ranking Democratic lawmaker -- a point conceded by the top House Republican.

Despite the GOP election upset in Massachusetts two weeks ago, a key House Democrat told “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace that House leaders are working with their Senate counterparts to move a healthcare reform compromise. 

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“We're still looking at a way to do comprehensive legislation. Certainly, certain provisions have to be dropped out. The Nebraska deal and other portions of that -- even Sen. Nelson has said he doesn't want that in the bill. … But the goal is still to try to get comprehensive healthcare passed,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.) said on Sunday morning.

Republicans had considered the legislation all but dead after voters replaced former Sen. Ted Kennedy's (D) seat with Republican Sen.-elect Scott Brown, who ran on a pledge to be the 41st senator to filibuster the healthcare bill.

But House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) conceded on a different show that the controversial measure was alive.

“We've seen all week Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Reid continuing to scheme and plot trying to find some way to get their big government takeover of healthcare enacted,” Boehner said on NBC’s “Meet The Press,” pledging that Repubicans would be “vigilant in exposing this.”

Boehner, fresh from a three-day issues retreat with members of his Republican conference, said that Friday afternoon’s extraordinary discussion with President Barack Obama was “a good afternoon” for his members.

Though they may agree on some issues such as Afghanistan and Iraq, in general it will be difficult to find common ground if Democrats continue to pursue policies such as cap-and-trade and the comprehensive healthcare plan, he said.

“Listen. There aren't that many places where we can come together. The president is -- he was the most liberal member of the United States Senate. You don't get there by accident. And if you look at the policies that we've seen over the course of this year from the administration and his Democratic colleagues in Congress, they are all these leftist proposals,” Boehner said.

Despite the at-times testy exchanges during the 90-minute discussion, Republicans expressed gratitude for the opportunity through the high-profile event with Obama in Baltimore to show that they had, in fact, offered alternative proposals to those put forward by the Democrats.

Budget Committee ranking member Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who posed a question to the president at the lunch and had a dialogue with him in front of participants, press and TV viewers, explained that his party was finally able to shed the label of obstructionists.

“The one thing that came out of that is the president actually acknowledged we've been advocating substantive alternatives all year long. So all this business of the 'party of no' has been nullified because the president acknowledged we've been putting up, you know, detailed alternative policies,” Ryan said on “Fox New Sunday.”

Van Hollen took issue with that characterization, however.


“The president's point was not that the Republicans don't have any ideas. He pointed out he had incorporated some of them, like tax cuts, as part of the stimulus bill. But what he was saying is, ‘Let's not go back to the same ideas that got us into the mess to begin with,’ for example, big tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans,” Van Hollen said.

Republicans have already attacked the president’s most recent jobs creating proposal to provide tax cuts to businesses hiring workers, and criticized his decision to freeze discretionary spending starting next year.

The minority party equates that plan with one that former President Jimmy Carter used in the late 1970s, when employers would fire then rehire their old employees to get the tax credit while giving the appearance that they were “hiring.”

But senior White House adviser David Axelrod defended the administration’s position on their tax breaks aimed at energizing small business.

“(Obama) said let's give a tax cut to small businesses to begin hiring, to encourage hiring.That was an idea that Mr. Cantor, Mr. Boehner's deputy, said was a good idea at one time. And he said that they would follow if we would lead on it. He said let's eliminate capital gains taxes for small businesses. He said let's accelerate the tax break that businesses get for buying equipment so that they can reap the benefit of it next year also, something that will encourage growth and job growth. These are the things we ought to be able to work together on and I hope we can,” Axelrod said on “Meet The Press.”