Democratic Leaders Debate Health Reform At The White House
The Associated Press/BusinessWeek: President Barack Obama met Wednesday afternoon with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and other lawmakers in an effort to produce a compromise between House and Senate legislation, underscoring "their desire to strike a quick deal." Democrats' sense of urgency for reaching a speedy conclusion to the debate, already nearly a year long, is exacerbated by flagging public support for the legislation and "a special election next Tuesday in Massachusetts to replace the late Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy -- an unexpectedly close race that could cost Democrats the pivotal 60th vote they need to push the measure through the Senate," according to the AP. "Lower-level negotiators from the White House and the two chambers have already been holding closed-door meetings and trying to make decisions. They seem likely to abandon a House-approved surtax on the wealthy even as they consider extending the Medicare payroll tax to investment income of high earners, Democratic officials said" (Fram, 1/13).
Politico: Late in the afternoon, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters that the talks are making progress but "don't expect to reach an agreement on pay-fors today. I'm not going to go into specifics because it's a whole package, and we have to reach agreement on the whole package,' he said. "
"Hoyer said there is an understanding in the room about how angry House members are over the inclusion of a tax on high-end insurance plans, but that was not the focus of the meeting" (O'Connor and Frates, 1/13).
In a separate story, AP reports: "Lawmakers customarily attend meetings at the White House that last an hour or so. In this case, administration aides said a session that convened in midmorning was still going three hours later, with the president shuttling in and out as he attended to other business. Senior congressional staff members were also in attendance, an indication that the goal was to resolve differences and reduce them to writing, rather than merely discuss them and leave the details to later. ..."
"House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio told GOP lawmakers that they could still sink the legislation. 'The bottom line is, I believe we can beat this bill,' Boehner told House Republicans in a closed-door meeting, according to his aides. 'The American people are with us'" (Werner, 1/13).
FOX News: Some House Democrats warned Tuesday "that talks could erode if the Senate doesn't start making some compromises of its own." Those lawmakers have complained that negotiations have leaned toward the Senate's version of the bill, "but neither side wants to budge too much on certain issues." Lawmakers remained split Wednesday "on whether to apply Medicare taxes to dividend income, whether to tax high-value insurance plans and whether to set up state-based or national insurance exchanges" (Pergram and Turner, 1/13).