LAS VEGAS (AP) - Former White House adviser Karl Rove said he thinks a health care reform bill will likely pass soon because of the numbers of Democrats in Congress, but they probably won't get the bill they have been pushing for.
Speaking at a fundraiser Wednesday night in Las Vegas, Rove also said conservatives must produce an alternative next year that is a "positive prescription" for health care. Conservatives should push for tax deductions and credits, computerized health records and reforms to keep doctors from having to worry about large malpractice lawsuits, he said.
"We'll be defined this year by what we oppose, and we're opposed to Obamacare," said Rove, the deputy chief of staff for former President George W. Bush. "But by next year, we need to be able to articulate what it is we're for, because there is a problem - some people are not getting health insurance and can't afford it."
Rove said most of the 46 million people cited by Democrats as not having health insurance make more than $50,000 a year and choose not to have insurance, aren't U.S. citizens or are eligible for government insurance programs but have not yet enrolled. He said that leaves 5 million people who don't have health insurance and can't afford it.
"Shouldn't we be worried about the answer to solve that 5 million people's problem rather than upsetting the apple cart for everybody else?" Rove said.
Rove said current circumstances with health care, the economy and foreign policy mean Republicans are likely to pick up seats in the House of Representatives and Senate during next year's midterm elections.
"Conservatives are going to make gains next year, it's just a question of how much," he said.
Rove said that conservatives who believe the movement must decide between sticking to its roots or finding a new direction are looking at the argument too simplistically.
"We can draw on our timeless principles and apply them to the new circumstances we face as a country," Rove said.
Rove spoke for more than an hour at a fundraiser dinner at the Venetian hotel-casino for the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a conservative think tank that advocates free-market solutions for public issues.
When asked about his proudest and least proud moments during his time in the White House, he said he was most proud of how the Bush administration "kept the people safe."
He said he was least proud that he and others didn't oppose Democrats more fervently in 2003 when they said the president lied about Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction.
"We should have stood up and taken a two-by-four to them in a polite and respectful fashion," he said.