WASHINGTON — Republicans questioned the cost of healthcare reform plans Sunday, and even Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) acknowledged similar concerns and said she wasn't sure there were enough votes among President Obama's fellow Democrats to pass a plan at the moment.
But the key reform supporter in the Senate called for patience while lawmakers wrestle with an issue that has vexed them for decades.
"If this were easy, it would have been done decades ago," Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) said on ABC's "This Week." "Sixty years, the effort has been made to have a national healthcare program in this country."
Obama has ramped up his effort to deliver on a promise of universal access to healthcare, and House Democrats hope to pass something before they adjourn for an August recess. The president wants to sign a solution into law in October.
The path to that solution is narrowing, and proponents are struggling to find it. Opinion polls show popular support for expanding healthcare to the more than 45 million uninsured in the U.S., but they also indicate that people are worried about the cost.
And the promised change won't come without a substantial price tag, as new estimates from the Congressional Budget Office highlighted. Democrats had hoped to craft a bill costing less than $1 trillion over 10 years, but the office's analysis suggested that the cost of one Senate measure could be closer to $1.6 trillion, and the other about $1 trillion.
Appearing alongside Dodd, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called the budget office's report a "death blow" to what he characterized as "a government-run health plan."
Likewise, Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, said it may be time to scale back the most ambitious plans.
"So we're in the position of dialing down some of our expectations to get the costs down so that it's affordable and, most importantly, so that it's paid for," he said on CNN's "State of the Union." "Because we can't go to the point where we are now of not paying for something when we have trillions of dollars of debt."
Also on CNN, Feinstein called the question of cost "a very major and difficult subject."
"I think there's a lot of concern in the Democratic caucus," she said.
Dodd said he was ready for that fight.
"We're not done with this," he said.