Senators Take To Trenches For Finance Committee Health Bill Mark Up
As they consider chairman Max Baucus' health proposal, Senate Finance Committee Republicans and Democrats are debating costs, subsidies and the future of Medicare.
The Washington Post: "Republicans outlined specific provisions they will seek to change or eliminate as the committee debates hundreds of amendments, a discussion that could stretch into next week. One target-rich area: the more than $500 billion in Medicare changes that the bill proposes, to squeeze waste from the insurance program for seniors. Another is the fine that the measure would impose on Americans who do not buy health insurance, which the GOP describes as a tax on the middle class. And they warn that the legislation's hefty new industry fees would be passed on to consumers." Democrats are seeking to assuage fears on middle class costs by expanding subsidies (Murray and Montgomery, 9/23).
Politico: "The White House and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) simply want to get a bill through the committee - and Democrats indicated Tuesday in their opening statements that they are largely willing to comply, despite some serious reservations. Baucus released a modified bill Tuesday that began to answer some of those questions. The new document, in many ways, read like a road map to winning votes. Baucus made a series of concessions to Democrats who could have withheld their vote had the changes not been made, and he accepted part or all of 10 amendments from Snowe, a key swing vote" (Budoff Brown, 9/23).
The Los Angeles Times: Among the Baucus revisions: "Easing the financial burden on families with income up to four times the federal poverty level (about $88,000 a year for a family of four). In his original proposal, people making between 133% and 400% of the federal poverty level could have been required to pay 3% to 13% of their income for insurance; the new proposal would lower that scale to between 2% and 12%. Americans making less than 133% of the federal poverty level would qualify for Medicaid."
Baucus also made coverage more affordable for older people (who aren't yet 65 and Medicare-eligible) by limiting how much insurers can charge them and ensuring that the federal government would pick up the tab for expanding Medicaid in states with the largest populations of people who are on Medicaid (Hook and Levey, 9/23).
The San Francisco Chronicle: "The finance panel legislation contains many elements Republicans have demanded, including a health insurance 'exchange' that (Republican Maine Sen. Olympia) Snowe called a 'powerful marketplace' that would allow as many as 25 million people to shop for policies. But she made equally clear that she will demand concessions for her vote, calling the Baucus draft 'a solid starting point' but saying 'we are far from the finish line'" (Lochhead, 9/23).
CongressDaily: "And while many Democrats are withholding support until they see how the Finance Committee bill is merged with the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee version, Democratic senators and aides suggest the bill's high profile and pressure from leaders will ultimately keep the Caucus together to invoke cloture" (Friedman, 9/23).
McClatchy Newspapers: "The 13 Democrats and 10 Republicans took more than three hours to make their opening statements expressing their views. Committee members offered 564 amendments" (Lightman, 9/22).
The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer has a video detailing the day's events (Bowser, 9/22).
Baucus is still pushing to move the bill to the Senate floor by the end of the week, CQ Politics reports. "As he opened the committee's markup of the long-stalled bill, (Baucus) said, 'I look forward to a constructive floor debate starting as early as next week,' he said" (9/22).
The Hill: "Finance Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) led a chorus of Republicans who complained that things were moving too fast" (Young, 9/22).
Lobbyists are not having the easiest time getting their message into the ears of Senators, Roll Call reports: "But with much of the day focused on opening statements, many of K Street's big-shot contract lobbyists were nowhere in sight - they wouldn't show up until later in the day or even later in the week when the committee plans to dig into the business of amendments that could tip the balance of the bill for or against their clients" (Ackley, 9/23).