WASHINGTON — California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger praised President Barack Obama's drive to overhaul the nation's health care system on Tuesday and urged fellow Republicans to join in efforts to finish the job this year.
Although Schwarzenegger stopped short of embracing a Democratic bill, his words of encouragement came on the heels of similar statements from other Republicans outside Congress, including former Senate Republican leader Bill Frist. The White House and Democrats highlighted them as evidence of momentum and division within GOP ranks.
Schwarzenegger, who two years ago tried but failed to pass a universal health care plan in California, said in a statement that he appreciated Obama's partnership with the states and his effort to hold down costs and improve quality. He urged lawmakers from both parties to "move forward and accomplish these vital goals for the American people."
The new Republican support for Obama's top domestic priority came as a potential setback emerged for Senate health legislation: Congressional tax experts reported the bill would impose $29 billion more in taxes on health care industries than originally thought — levies that could be passed on to consumers in the form of higher premiums.
That could be troublesome news for an overhaul bill facing a crucial vote in the Senate Finance Committee this week, and with Republican senators already complaining that the legislation contains too many taxes.