By J. Taylor Rushing - 08/18/09 12:36 PM EDT
Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said Tuesday that Republicans remain opposed to the Democratic approach on healthcare even when the legislation excludes a public insurance option, signaling the difficult road ahead for a bipartisan bill.
In a conference call with reporters, Kyl, a member of the Senate Finance Committee that is currently drafting a health bill, suggested Democrats start over in September with a “different approach” rather than continue debating ideas that are unlikely to win more than a handful of Republican votes.
"I think it's safe to say there are a huge number of big issues that people have," Kyl said. "Let's start with the cost of it. There's no way that Republicans are going to support a trillion-dollar-plus bill."
Kyl predicted the idea of a government co-operative plan wouldn't receive any significant Republican support because the party still objects to the premise behind it.
"As Democrats have said, it doesn't matter what you call it — they want it to accomplish something that Republicans are opposed to, and that is a step toward government-run healthcare in the country," Kyl said. "It's by another name, and it is a Trojan horse, and therefore no, I don't believe that Republicans will be inclined to support a bill because of that one relatively insignificant section in the House bill.”
Kyl said Republicans prefer a narrower approach that targets costs and the factors behind the costs, but that Democrats voted down those proposals in committee debates. The GOP would prefer to see ideas such as medical malpractice lawsuit limits, an expansion of private healthcare tax breaks and the abandonment of employer-mandated healthcare. The Democrat-led approach to healthcare also doesn't include enough allowances for states to experiment with their own healthcare ideas, Kyl said.
The Arizona senator rejected the suggestion that Republicans were to blame for any "scare campaigns" designed to derail healthcare, stating that the party instead is simply reflecting public sentiment. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) used her Facebook page last week to ignite a national charge that President Barack Obama's intentions for healthcare include government-run "death panels," based on a provision in a House bill that called for publicly funded doctor-family consultations on end-of-life care.
Kyl noted that many of the organizations that opposed health reform during the Clinton administration in the 1990s have now been "neutralized" by the Obama administration. The American Medical Association and AARP are among the groups that support the Democrat-led reform efforts. A House bill calls for voluntary consultations between a doctor and a family, although Kyl said the payment is compulsory if a doctor reports the counseling session.
“Because of public opposition to that provision, I think there's no question that it's going to be dropped,” he said. “I totally reject the notion that the only reason the American people oppose this is because somebody on the Republican side has deliberately spread misinformation about the plan.”