Senate Republicans predicted on Wednesday that the 40 members of their caucus would unanimously oppose health care reform despite changes made by Democratic leadership to make the product more palatable to conservatives.
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) told the Huffington Post that he did not think the dropping of a public option for insurance coverage from the bill would be enough for Democrats to win even the support of moderate Republican Senators Olympia Snowe or Susan Collins, both of Maine.
"I just think that our side believes that it is a really bad idea to take a program that is already sinking and put more people into it."
Both Thune and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said they thought the last minute alterations to the Senate's version of health care -- specifically the decision to expand Medicare coverage to those as young as 55-years-old -- was a "Hail Mary" attempt on the part of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to amass the votes needed to overcome a Republican filibuster.
"This is like Groundhog Day. It is déjà vu all over again where we wake up every day and there is a new idea to try and figure out how to get to 60 votes," said Thune.
Pointing out that Sen. Joseph Lieberman' (I-Conn.) supported a Medicare buy-in provision in the 2000 campaign, Thune added: "Maybe that is what they are trying to tie into -- something he supported in the past. I don't know how that helps them with moderates on their side who have expressed concern about government-run health care. But they are obviously figuring out how to pick off one or more of their own."
It does appear that Reid and his deputies believe that the most recent round of compromises will yield them the needed votes to cut of a Republican filibuster. The quick moving debate, however, has meant that there is a paucity of details about the actual legislation. On Wednesday, Republicans sought to latch on to the one provision that has been widely reported -- the Medicare buy-in -- painting it as a financial death sentence for hospitals and a killer for doctors.
"We had never heard of such a proposal before in all of the proposals that were being made and we don't know the details yet," said McCain. "But the American Medical Association and the American Hospitals Association and a whole lot of other groups have heard enough that they are against this provision."
Told that under the Democrats proposal, 55-to-64-year-olds who want to be covered by Medicare would have to pay a premium, the senator still foresaw budgetary ruin for the government-run program.
"Number one, obviously the premiums that are paid in now aren't enough because the Medicare trustees have stated the system is going bankrupt in seven years," said McCain. "Number two is, there is a concern that people who have pre-existing conditions can't get insurance anywhere else. Third of all, you would be expanding, over time the population in Medicare dramatically at a much earlier time.
"I always thought that Medicare was a way to take care of our senior citizens," he concluded. "That was the original design. And I think, and maybe it's from my vantage point, but I consider 55 to be pretty young."