By Walter Alarkon - 01/25/10 07:10 PM EST
House Democrats should “do the right thing” and approve the Senate’s healthcare bill, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) said Monday.
Daschle said it would require “political courage” to take up the Senate legislation, but that this was better than doing nothing.
“You could argue that there is just as much political downside to not to pass this than to pass this,” Daschle added.
The former Democratic leader was to have led President Barack ObamaBarack ObamaPelosi, Dems rush to defense of Wasserman Schultz Poll: Trump has narrow lead over Clinton in NC Obama questioner: 'Mr. President ... you’re so handsome' MORE’s healthcare charge on Capitol Hill. Obama nominated Daschle to serve as his healthcare czar and Health and Human Services Department secretary, but a tax controversy scuttled the nomination and Daschle withdrew.
It’s unclear whether Daschle would have made a difference during the lengthy debate in Congress, but the former senator from South Dakota is a healthcare expert who knows the ins and outs of the Senate as well as anyone in the administration.
He said he still thought a healthcare bill would pass Congress.
“I'm still very hopeful and somewhat encouraged by what I’m hearing,” he said.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) last week said she did not have the votes in the House to approve the Senate bill. It’s unclear how or if healthcare will move forward, though a number of House Democrats have suggested they might support a more limited bill.
Daschle is now a senior adviser at the law firm DLA Piper. He’s a co-founder of the Bipartisan Policy Center with former Senate Majority Leaders Bob Dole (R-Kan.), Howard Baker (R-Va.) and George Mitchell (D-Maine).
Daschle blamed interest groups aligned against the Democrats’ healthcare proposals for driving down the popularity of healthcare legislation with Americans.
“Just like in any political campaign, if you've had millions of dollars thrown against you, it creates a negative impression that tends to be very harmful, and that's what happened to the healthcare bill,” he said. “Millions and millions of dollars have been directed in a negative campaign to distort and to mislead the American people, and that's going to have an effect.”
Daschle also dismissed suggestions that the healthcare bill is a product of unseemly backroom deals. GOP lawmakers have criticized a Senate bill provision that would have the federal government pay the full cost of an expansion of Medicaid in Nebraska. The provision was inserted by Senate leaders at the request of Sen. Ben Nelson (Neb.), the last Senate Democrat to support the bill.
“The legislative process has never been pretty and everybody knows that,” Daschle said. “Anybody who has been around the legislative process, I dare say, can never find a time when arrangements and negotiations don't lead to circumstances involving, you know, one state, one senator. That's just a process that will always be tough. I think you just have to accept that.”