White House, Rockefeller fire back at Howard Dean

Liberal Sen. Jay Rockefeller denounced Howard Dean’s call for the Senate healthcare bill to be axed as “nonsense and irresponsible.”

Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and the White House both fired back at Dean on Wednesday for saying that liberals should kill the Senate bill.

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Dean, a former governor of Vermont and ex-chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), said liberals should kill the Senate bill and start all over because it does not include a public option or a provision to allow people as young as 55 to buy in to Medicare.

Both plans were dropped by Senate Democratic leaders because of objections from centrists.

“Do I take my football and go home and sob and complain or hold out for $100 million for West Virginia?” Rockefeller asked. “No, I look at the bill and say, ‘What is in the general interest of the people in my state and the people in America?’ ”

At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, the White House also pushed back against Dean, who as the DNC’s head clashed with Rahm Emanuel, President Barack Obama’s chief of staff.

“I don’t know what piece of legislation he’s reading,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters Wednesday. “I don’t think any rational person would say killing a bill makes a whole lot of sense at this point.”

Gibbs said that the health bill before Congress would accomplish many of the same things that Dean, a physician by trade, had clamored for during his 2004 presidential campaign.

White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer also dismissed Dean’s claim, made on a morning talk show, that the Senate bill represented an insurance company’s dream.

In a post on the White House blog, Pfeiffer said the primary goal of health reform isn’t “to punish insurers — it’s to give every American the ability to find affordable coverage while controlling the unsustainable cost growth in our current healthcare system that is crushing families and businesses.”

Added Pfeiffer: “On that front, this bill is hugely successful.”

The post marked an unusual use of the White House blog for Pfeiffer, who has mostly used posts to target insurers and Republicans opposed to the health reform effort, not fellow Democrats.