The Minority Leader in the Senate says the biggest problem facing Democrats is not the 40 Republicans across the aisle but the American people.
Calling the current health care reform legislation being debated in the Senate a "monstrosity," Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky also said he doubted it would be passed before the holiday break, and said the reason was because Americans do not want it.
Appearing on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday, McConnell said the Democrats cannot agree on what should or should not be included in the bill, such as more restrictive language on abortion, disability insurance, a public option. or a Medicare buy-in. "It's noteworthy that," he told "Face the Nation" host Bob Schieffer. "There are more Democratic positions than you'd find in a stack of newspapers, [and] therein lies the problem."
McConnell also sought to dispel charges that his party are obstructionists who do not want to reform the nation's health care system.
He cited opposition to aspects of the bill that, he claimed, would cut a half-trillion dollars from Medicare, raise taxes to subsidize health coverage for the uninsured, and increase health insurance premiums for everyone else. "I think [Democrats] are in serious trouble on this, and the core problem is the American people do not want us to pass it."
On the matter of a Medicare buy-in, in which those without insurance age 55 and up could buy into the existing government program used by people 65 and older, McConnell said, "Everyone anticipates a lot of very sick people would buy in, and it would exacerbate the problems that Medicare has.
"What we really need to do is to stop and start over, and go step-by-step to deal with the cost issue, which is what the American people thought [health reform] this was all about."
He said the 60 votes Democrats have in the Senate could enable them to do "anything they wanted," but differing viewpoints within their caucus make it impossible. "That's the problem. They can't get together themselves."
"Do you think no health care reform would be better than what the Democrats are proposing?" asked Schieffer.
"I'm not in favor of no health care reform," McConnell replied. "I think we ought to go step-by-step. Target losses between doctors and hospitals, have interstate competition among health care companies, incentivize wellness programs that companies like Safeway have shown can bring down the cost.
"There are things that we can do to improve what is already the finest health care in the world," he said.
When asked if he thought cutting or including certain aspects of the bill, such as a Medicare buy-in or allowing the government to negotiate health insurance rates, might win support from Republican Senators, McConnell said, "We want to reform the health care system. We do not believe this bill, this 2-100-page monstrosity, is health care reform."
"You've been getting a little heat yourself on this from some Republicans," Schieffer said. "I noticed last week Rush Limbaugh was really on your case. He says you're not putting up enough of a fight. He says you're helping the Democrats by letting this debate go on."
"Look, Republicans are together," McConnell said. "Republicans who have a vote on this issue in the Senate are together," claiming that the core of the bill represents a first step toward a single-payer system.
"Do you think there's any way that any kind of a bill could be passed before Christmas?" asked Schieffer.
McConnell responded that, "for the Democrats to arrogantly take the position 'We're going to ignore public opinion and jam this through before Christmas,' I think that's really a stretch."