Baucus Readies Reform Move, With Or Without Republicans
Sen. Max Baucus is readying his Senate Finance Committee to move a health care reform bill to the full Senate, with or without the support of Republicans negotiating their position.
CongressDaily: "Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus is moving forward with a chairman's mark of healthcare overhaul legislation next week regardless of whether Republican support exists for the measure. 'I very much hope and expect Republicans to be on board. I don't know how many, but if there are not any, I'm going to move forward in any event,' Baucus said after a meeting today with Finance Democrats."
"Senate Finance Health Subcommittee Chairman John (Jay) Rockefeller, D-W.Va., was not pleased with Baucus' proposal, in particular the co-op provision. 'The co-op has never been presented with any possibility of its working,' said Rockefeller, a champion of the public option. Baucus also indicated a 'trigger' proposal, which would permit the public option to kick in only if private insurers do not provide affordable insurance, is not an alternative" (Edney, 9/9).
The New York Times: "Mr. Baucus said his panel would take up the bill even if the three Republicans who have been negotiating with him for months refuse to sign on. The three Republicans are Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, and Michael B. Enzi of Wyoming. Perhaps the biggest is serious disagreement among his group of six negotiators over how to expand Medicaid, the government insurance program for low-income Americans, and especially over how much states would have to pay in additional costs."
Snowe has raised questions about whether states that currently cover some childless adults in their Medicaid programs will be penalized under the overhaul proposal.
"The federal government would step in to help states with the added costs," the Times reports, "but it is clear that states that currently do not cover such adults at all would get more help" (Herszenhorn, 9/9).
The Hill: "His bill will not include a government-run insurance option to compete with the private sector because 'a public option cannot pass the Senate,' Baucus said. The public option is a core provision for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and liberal members, and was approved by three House panels and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. The Gang of Six will meet again Thursday, a sign that it may not want to give up just yet. (North Dakota Sen. Kent) Conrad said Baucus's bill would be fully scored by the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation when it is released next week" (Young, 9/9).
CQ Politics: "Baucus said he still hoped to win some GOP support. 'I very much hope and expect there will be some Republicans when I issue the mark,' he said" (9/9).
Roll Call reports that many believe Snowe will be the last Republican standing with Baucus. "The other two GOP negotiators - Finance ranking member Chuck Grassley (Iowa) and Sen. Mike Enzi (Wyo.) - continue to bristle at what they feel is an accelerated timeline for reaching a deal, sources said. The duo told their Republican colleagues at the party's weekly policy lunch that they feel Baucus is being railroaded by Democratic leadership into producing a bill. At a press conference, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Republicans wanted to tackle health care issues piecemeal, not comprehensively. Democrats on the Finance Committee were also uneasy with the direction of Baucus' bill, but pleased that the chairman was finally moving forward with a markup where they could at least try to put their own stamp on the bill" (Pierce and Drucker, 9/10).
ABC News: "'This is a starting point. This is far far from an end point,' said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, after the meeting. Other Democrats on the committee said they are concerned about cuts in supplemental Medicare Advantage programs foreseen in the plan to pay for expanded coverage. ...
"'The long and the short of it is that anything that cuts senior citizens benefits substantially is not gonna fly,' said Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, although he said he is hopeful an agreement can be reached" (Wolf, 9/9).