Baucus Bill Garners No Republican Support
Sen. Max Baucus is unveiling his health overhaul bill today at noon and news outlets noted it will not have any Republican support.
The Associated Press reports "Baucus' decision to release his long-awaited health care overhaul bill with no Republicans on board dims the chances for a bipartisan compromise on President Barack Obama's top domestic priority. The Senate Finance Committee chairman insisted Tuesday that he'll keep negotiating with the three Republicans and two fellow Democrats who've been in closed-door talks with him for months on the bill he was to reveal Wednesday. Baucus, D-Mont., said he hopes that by the time the committee votes on the bill, as early as next week, Republicans will be there."
"Many of the details in the Baucus' bill were already known. Unlike more liberal versions passed by three committees in the House and by the Senate's Health Committee, it shunned liberals' call for the government to sell insurance and relied instead on co-ops to offer coverage in competition with private industry" (Werner, 9/16).
The Los Angeles Times: "Baucus was still revising key provisions of the bill Tuesday, including curbs on funding for abortion and on benefits for illegal immigrants. But the broad outlines were clear. Like the version pending in the House, the Baucus proposal would require all individuals to have health insurance, make Medicaid available to more poor people, provide subsidies to help middle- and lower-income people afford private coverage, and set up marketplaces for individuals and small businesses to buy insurance at competitive rates. But the Baucus bill costs less than $880 billion over 10 years, compared with the $1-trillion measure in the House" (Hook and Nicholas, 9/16).
In the meantime, Senate Finance Committee negotiator Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, is feeling the heat from both parties.
Politico: "Despite deep divisions within their own ranks, Senate Democratic leaders are confident that they'll come together when it's time for a vote on health care reform. But without the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, the Democrats have just 59 votes - one shy of the filibuster-busting 60 they're likely to need. That puts the pressure squarely on Snowe, the three-term Maine moderate who has been at the center of the Senate Finance Committee's bipartisan Gang of Six negotiations - and who is widely considered to be the Republican most likely to jump ship. 'Everybody's praying she won't,' says Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)" (Raju, 9/16).
Snowe has said she probably won't initially sign on to Baucus' bill. The Hill: "'I do have concerns and I'm not sure they can be addressed before he issues [legislation Wednesday],' Snowe said. Snowe said she would like more time to review the legislation before deciding to back it. But Democratic leaders have decided that GOP negotiators have been given more than enough time. Snowe said she is also concerned with whether Baucus's bill will do enough to make health insurance more affordable" (Bolton and Young, 9/15).
Roll Call: "'I'll issue my statement tomorrow. But that's not the end of the process, tomorrow. It's just the beginning. So, I wouldn't read too much into it,' Snowe told reporters, upon exiting the weekly Republican Conference lunch. 'We've had discussions. And one of my concerns has been - and I've indicated them - is at the end of the process, we should have an opportunity to have a completed document that would then be subsequently submitted to the Congressional Budget Office for the final scores. I thought that that was important'" (Drucker, 9/15).
Roll Call in a second story: Another Republican negotiator, Sen. Chuck Grassley, "late Tuesday delivered his strongest signal yet that he will not back a health care reform bill due to be formally introduced on Wednesday by Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.). In a statement released following another session Tuesday evening of the gang of six bipartisan Finance negotiators, Grassley blamed the White House and Senate Democratic leaders for imposing an artificial and counterproductive timeline on the talks, which he says contributed to the group's failure to reach a deal on health care reform legislation. Grassley said he would continue working with Baucus and the other four negotiators, but said key policy differences that remain prevent him from signing on to the bill in time for Baucus' Wednesday unveiling" (Drucker, 9/15).
CongressDaily: "Grassley said he has concerns that federal funds could be used for abortions, that illegal immigrants could gain access to federal subsidies meant to help afford insurance and that the cost of health insurance will still be too high. The Finance Committee's top Republican wants stronger changes to the medical malpractice system than the grant program for state pilot projects the bill will endorse. 'On top of all that, there's no guarantee that a Finance Committee bill, even if it becomes bipartisan, will stay that way after it leaves the committee,' Grassley said" (Edney, 9/16).
Politico in a second story: "The lack of Republican support - at the outset, at least - suggests Democrats will need to make more concessions if they hope to produce a bipartisan bill. Otherwise, the Senate leadership may have to use a last-ditch procedural maneuver known as reconciliation to move the bill through the chamber with 51 votes. The absence of Republicans could also damage President Barack Obama's efforts to convince Americans that his reform plan has broad support" (Budoff Brown, 9/15).