Democratic Leaders Say Reform Bill Is Progressing
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are calling for Democratic unity on health care overhaul after a meeting with President Obama yesterday that they say "re-energized" them.
CQ Politics: Reid said, "'Even before the August recess, 80 percent of health care is already done. It's ... the 20 percent where we still had to work on,' Reid said. 'In our conversations today, we think we're up to 90 percent. ... We have 10 percent that we need to work on, and we can do that'" (Bettelheim and Epstein, 9/8).
Differences remain, however, Roll Call reports: "Divisions started at the top, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) once again declaring a public insurance option 'essential' to the success of a broader package hours after her No. 2, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), suggested it might need to be cut loose to garner enough votes to pass the chamber. Pelosi also appeared to open the door a crack to a 'trigger' that would use the public insurance option only as a fallback if private insurance companies fail to hold down costs and improve quality. Despite the apparent fissures, House Democratic leaders made a show of unity after an early evening huddle Tuesday, claiming broad consensus on the need for reform and 85 percent on the substance. 'There's no division,' Pelosi said. 'We all support a public option.'" Many Democrats and all Republicans have called the public option a non-starter (Newmyer and Dennis, 9/9).
But The Hill reports that the tide is turning against the public option in advance of Obama's speech. "Reid, who plans to play a bigger role in the healthcare debate this fall, took a noncommittal stance on the issue Tuesday. He delivered a speech on the Senate floor that left the need for a government-run program unmentioned. At a press conference at the White House following his and Pelosi's meeting with Obama, Reid said the Senate would try to pass a public option 'or something like a public option' but stopped far short of the impassioned plea Pelosi delivered at his side" (Soraghan, Bolton and Youngman, 9/8).
Pelosi, though, may be turning the public option into her trump card, Politico reports: "Pelosi's leverage in her perpetual push-pull with Reid has been boosted by a rebellion among pro-public-option progressives ... who say they are tired of being shortchanged by the White House. ... Democratic insiders say Pelosi is intent on harnessing that liberal power play as the only way to keep the public option alive, even if it's in a watered-down form" (Thrush and O'Connor, 9/9).
The Associated Press/Boston Globe on the public option: "Many Democrats want to do away with private insurance and replace it with something resembling Medicare coverage for all, but that's not politically feasible. Offering the choice of a government insurance plan was a compromise within the Democratic Party. But Republicans are adamantly opposed, saying it's the first step to a government takeover of health care. Defeating the government plan also is the top priority for the insurance industry, and hospitals, doctors and drugmakers have their own concerns about it. Unions strongly support the public option, and so does a majority of the public in opinion polls" (Alonso-Zaldivar, 9/9).
CongressDaily: "Reid said outside the White House that Congress was 're-energized' by a summer recess during which many members were pummeled for their support of Obama's ambitious effort. Pelosi said the break was 'pretty exciting,' stating that 'in the month of August, our members heard from their constituents' and 'they bring back the benefit of that thinking'" (House and Condon, 9/9).
Reid also talked in restrained terms about using budget reconciliation to pass a reform bill, Roll Call reports in a second story: " 'We can get it through that way, but it's not as robust a bill,' Reid said of the reconciliation option in comments to Roll Call" (Koffler, 9/8).