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Howard Dean Steps Up Attacks on Health Care Compromise

(CBS)
Updated 3:11 p.m. ET

Howard Dean, the former Democratic National Committee chairman, Vermont governor and presidential candidate – who is also a medical doctor – continues to attack the Senate's compromise version of the health care reform bill.

On ABC's "Good Morning America" Wednesday, Dean said the bill represented "a bigger bailout for the insurance industry than AIG."

"This is an insurance companies' dream, this bill," he added. "This is the Washington scramble and I think it's ill-advised."

The White House responded to Dean's criticism Wednesday afternoon. In his daily press briefing, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said "I don't think the insurance companies have gotten the memo" that the bill is to their benefit, since, Gibbs said, they continue to fight against it.

Yesterday Dean stated flatly that "honestly the best thing to do right now is kill the Senate bill, go back to the House, start the reconciliation process, where you only need 51 votes and it would be a much simpler bill."

Dean had been a fierce advocate of including a "public option," or government-run health care plan, in the health care reform bill. But he had signaled that he still supported the bill under a compromise that replaced the public option with the "Medicare buy-in," which would have allowed uninsured Americans between 55 and 64 years old to buy Medicare coverage.

When Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut indicated on CBS' "Face The Nation" Sunday that he would not support the Medicare buy-in compromise, however – forcing Democrats to accept the prospect of a less ambitious final bill – Dean jumped ship.

"The Senate version is not worth passing," he told Politico. "I think in this particular iteration, this is the end of the road for reform."

Dean has become the most prominent voice of liberal anger over the health care bill, with some claiming that President Obama and other Democrats are more interested in passing any sort of bill than making sure that what does pass is worthwhile.

"We've gotten to this stage...in Washington where passing any bill is a victory, and that's the problem," Dean told ABC. "Decisions are being about the long-term future of this country for short-term political reasons, and that's never a good sign."

Under the process of reconciliation, Democrats could pass a bill with just 51 votes, not the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster. There may be enough senators in support of the public option to pass the measure via reconciliation.

The reconciliation process, however, is limited to bills that pertain to budgetary matters -- so while the Senate could use it for any provisions that impact the budget, they would have to pass other reforms, like insurance regulations, in a separate bill.

And Democratic leaders have indicated they are not interested in using reconciliation for health care reform.

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