Senate moderates flex muscles in passing health care legislation - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Senate moderates flex muscles in passing health care legislation

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WASHINTGON, D.C. (AP/CBS 8) -- Senate moderates on Sunday threatened to scuttle the health care bill if their demands weren't met, frustrating rank-and-file Democrats who say their colleagues' views were out of step with American voters.

The inter-party dispute foretells of a rowdy floor debate next month as Democratic leaders try to push through legislation that would extend health care coverage to roughly 31 million people who lack it. This weekend, the Senate voted 60-39 to open debate on the bill.

While Saturday's vote was hailed a victory for President Barack Obama, the legislation's final passage is far from certain.

"I don't want to fix the problems in our health care system in a way that creates more of an economic crisis," said Connecticut independent Joe Lieberman.

Lieberman and three Democratic moderates - Sens. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas - agreed to advance debate on the bill despite having reservations about the legislation. Each has said they might not support subsequent votes on the bill unless changes are made.

Among the top sticking points is a provision that would allow Americans to buy government-run insurance coverage if their state allows it.

There are other issues, too. Nelson, for example, said he wants tougher restrictions on what taxpayer money will fund.

The sway held by such a small group of senators has annoyed other lawmakers, who could vote against a final bill if they think it doesn't go far enough.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said he didn't think "we'll get to that." But at the same time, he warned Democratic leaders not to make too many concessions.

"I don't want four Democratic senators dictating to the other 56 of us and to the rest of the country - when the public option has this much support - that (a public option is) not going to be in it," said Brown.

Lieberman appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press," while Brown appeared on CNN's "State of the Union." Nelson appeared on ABC's "This Week."

Associated Press writers Lolita C. Baldor and Philip Elliott contributed to this report.

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