Harkin: Dems Focused on Health Reform Big Picture

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, responded Tuesday to widespread criticism that Democrats only garnered the 60 votes needed to defeat Republican stalling tactics on the health reform bill by catering to self-interest, saying Democrats are focusing on the big picture; "trying to cross a demarcation line."

Harkin dismissed deals dubbed vote-buying by GOP senators as "small stuff" that distracted Americans from the primary focus of the overhaul bill.

"We have to keep our eyes on what we're trying to do here. We're trying to cross a demarcation line," Harkin told "Early Show" co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez. "On one side is health care as a privilege, on the other side is health care as a right. With these votes, with the vote that we'll take before Christmas, we will cross that line finally and say that health care is a right of all Americans."

Asked by Rodriguez whether that meant he would still support the bill if all the bonuses for Iowa were stripped out of it, Harkin responded without hesitation: "Absolutely. Without a doubt."

"The principle of this bill overrides everything; that we're going to increase the number of people who are covered by insurance, we're going to increase affordable care, we're going to crack down on abuses by insurance companies."

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"We have more in this bill now for prevention and wellness than any bill that's ever passed the Congress," added Harkin.

The senator also predicted that while a public option was unlikely to work its way back into the current health reform legislation during reconciliation between the House and Senate bills, it would be back.

"I am a strong supporter of a public option, I remain so, and I believe that sometime in the near future we will revisit that issue again and we will adopt a public option."

More on Health Care:

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Obama: Health Care Vote a "Big Victory"
Some Seek to Kill the 60-Vote Filibuster
Bob Corker: Health Bill Process Lacks Integrity
John McCain Evokes Bernie Madoff in Health Care Bill Critique
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  • Tucker Reals

    Tucker Reals is the CBSNews.com foreign editor, based at the CBS News London bureau.

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