U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said Friday that Democratic President Barack Obama would end up with a longer-lasting health care reform plan if Republicans are given a voice in the legislation.

"The final decision is probably going to be made by the president," Sen. Corker said. "What he's going to have to do is decide, 'Do I want to pass a bipartisan health care bill, or do I want to pass a partisan health care bill?'"

Sen. Corker spoke about health care and other issues to attendees of a Tennessee Press Association breakfast at the Sheraton Read House.

"Things that stand the test of time are done in a centrist way," Tennessee's junior senator said.

In a speech to the American Medical Association on Monday, Mr. Obama indicated that he wants both parties involved in the debate.

"This is a test of whether we, Democrats and Republicans alike, are serious about holding the line on new spending and restoring fiscal discipline," he said.

Sen. Corker said he would like to be able to vote for the health care reform bill that comes before Congress, but he expressed some reservations about the public option -- a government-run health insurance alternative to private insurance -- the president has proposed.

"What I hope we don't do is create a large public plan that basically snuffs out the private sector," he said.

Mr. Obama has argued in favor of the public option as something that will "inject competition into the health care market so that we can force waste out of the system and keep the insurance companies honest."

Sen. Corker said he believes the government's involvement in the health care system should be as "an organizer."

He suggested that Congress limit the tax exemption on health insurance benefits employees get through employers, and then use a voucher for those funds to help uninsured workers pay for health care.

"You create a pooling mechanism," he said.

Mr. Obama has said he is open to making health benefits taxable.


* Sen. Corker said Chrysler's bankruptcy was "100 percent driven by the (Obama) administration." He criticized Chrysler for forcing dealerships to close without taking back inventory and touted his bill that would force them and General Motors to do so.

* He called the way the Senate passed the so-called 'cash for clunkers' bill "one of the most abusive things I've seen." The bill was inserted into the supplemental war spending bill passed Thursday night. Under the bill, the federal government will provide vouchers for people to trade in older cars for newer, more fuel-efficient models.


President Obama has said he wants a health care reform bill on his desk by Aug. 7, just before lawmakers go on on a monthlong recess.