Democratic Divisions Threaten HC Legislation

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WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Senate has set the scene for a major debate over healthcare reform, but Democrats are deeply divided about key provisions in the bill.

Having won a key vote on Saturday that allows debate on the measure, the Democrats now face the much tougher task of trying to work out irreconcilable differences between their liberal and moderate wings.

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Some are worried about the costs involved, while others have said they won't support a bill with the public option.

Still, many Democrats say the problem is simple.

"No developed country on earth has the huge for profit medical insurance industry that we have; 480 percent profit in eight years, premiums going sky rocketing," Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., told NBC's Meet the Press.

They say the goal is also simple.

"One thing is certain: you ought to have a right to decent health care, to go to see a doctor when you need it and to be able to afford it without bankruptcy in the process," Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., said.

But Republicans insist the Democrats' plan to get there is far too harmful to the healthcare system and far too expensive.

"The American people are asking us to stop this bill. And we're going to do anything and everything we can to prevent this measure from becoming law." Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said.

Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., added, "It's filled with costly budget gimmicks and asks the people of America to spend over two trillion dollars on proposals that will heap a mountain of debt on our children and grandchildren."

With every Republican in the Senate opposing the Democrats' bill, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has to keep every Democrat happy enough to keep backing whatever compromises are worked out in the days ahead.

So far, they're sticking together and all voted to let the debate begin on the Senate floor.

"I believe that it is more important that we begin this debate to improve our nation's health care system for all Americans rather than just simply drop the issue and walk away," Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., said.

But the more liberal senators insist they'll only back the bill if a public option for a government-run insurance program is in it, while the moderates say that could kill their support for the bill.

Connecticut independent Sen. Joe Lieberman said, "If the public option is still in there, the only resort we have is to say no at the end to reporting the bill off the floor."

However, with government deficits and costs already spiraling out of control on so many fronts, republicans are warning the cost of health care reform could be almost double what the Democrats are saying.

They say the House version over 10 years would cost almost $3 trillion.

Several moderate Democratic senators say they want the 10-year price tag under $1 trillion.

Consequently, a royal battle to try to settle all these major differences is definitely ahead.

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