107th Congress Moderates May Shape Health Care Issues, USA Today Reports
With the new Congress nearly evenly divided, congressional moderates "represent the political middle ground where consensus must be found to advance a variety of issues pending" including patients' rights, a Medicare prescription drug benefit and Medicare reform, USA Today reports. Self-proclaimed moderate Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) explained, "Moderates are the fulcrum on which the Congress will be balanced. If anything is going to get done, it's going to have to come from the center." Marshall Wittmann, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, added, "They can become critical power brokers. When the new president has no margin to spare, the moderates can prove to be the decisive difference." Moderates will be most pivotal in the evenly split Senate, USA Today reports, where rules require a 60-vote "supermajority to overcome stubborn opposition" on some issues.
Progress Hinges on Centrists
Resolution of the Medicare prescription drug issue may hinge on centrists, who will have to bridge some "big differences" in details of both parties' prescription drug benefit plans. Although both parties have pledged a prescription drug benefit, Democrats have proposed to offer the benefit directly through Medicare, while Republicans want to do so via subsidized private insurance. Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) said, "Neither side can get anything done by themselves. Neither side has the numbers." Both parties have managed to narrow their differences on a patients' bill of rights, and moderates may serve to "produce a consensus" on that issue as well, USA Today reports. Finally, progress on Medicare reform "might be possible" with the help of a centrist coalition headed by Breaux. The Louisiana senator hopes to make Medicare-subsidized private HMO options more "attractive and innovative," an idea embraced by President-elect George W. Bush. Breaux said, "Hopefully, we can have some agreements" (Welch, USA Today, 1/3).