After Key Vote, Senate Still Has Long Way To Go On Health Care Reform
Bloomberg: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid now has to meld the $829 billion legislation with a measure passed by the Senate health committee in July. While both proposals aim to curb medical costs and cover tens of millions of uninsured Americans, their different paths to the goal have divided Democrats and unsettled some of the party's main supporters."
And the battles aren't reserved only for lawmakers on the Hill. "'We see a five-party tug-of-war' among labor unions, senior citizens, lawmakers, employers and health industries, said Anne Kim, economic program director for Third Way, a Washington research institution. 'The right compromise is going to be one that requires each of these groups to hurt just a little'" (Jensen and Litvan, 10/14).
McClatchy Newspapers: The main point of contention between the Finance and the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committees' bills is the government-run public option, which the HELP bill has but the Finance bill does not. "Three Finance Committee Democrats voted against the public option when the panel considered it last month." And, as the bill moves to the Senate floor, sixty votes will be needed "to overcome procedural hurdles, and Democrats control 60 seats. But as the Finance Committee's votes underscore, not all 60 Democratic senators support a public option, so final passage of legislation including one appears unlikely" (Lightman, 10/13).
The Boston Globe reports that, while Republicans feel left out of the process, "(p)ressure is mounting on Democratic leaders in the House and Senate to make greater concessions to the party's left, which wants a government-sponsored insurance option, along with more generous premium subsidies that would make the legislation more expensive" (Milligan and Wangsness, 10/14).
Roll Call reports that Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Max Baucus is protecting his bill. "'The country wants a balanced bill,' Baucus told reporters moments after his health care reform package was reported out of Finance. 'I also want to make sure that the final bill passes the CBO test and is deficit-neutral and bends the cost curve - which are very strong considerations for a lot of Senators'" (Drucker, 10/14).
The Associated Press: "Aides say Reid has a keen sense of what the Senate will pass and he is focused on finding a solution that can get the 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican filibuster" (Alonso-Zaldivar, 10/14).
Time: "Reid's staff have been working for two weeks to match up the Finance bill with one passed earlier this summer by the (HELP) Committee and to resolve second- and third-tier issues, such as administrative streamlining, preventive measures and reinsurance. Over the next two weeks they will finish merging the two measures and begin counting votes on some of the hundreds of amendments expected to be filed." (Newton-Small, 10/14).
Roll Call reports in a second story that "House and Senate committees are about to miss a Thursday deadline for writing a fast-tracked health care bill, but Democrats aren't sweating it. The reconciliation rules, which get around the threat of a Senate filibuster, include an Oct. 15 deadline for committees to report bills to the Budget Committee. The five key panels have all reported out regular health care bills, but only one House committee so far has produced a reconciliation bill. But it turns out that deadline doesn't necessarily mean a whole lot, budget experts say. In the House, the Rules Committee can fill in the blanks of the legislation later. The Senate can also still go the reconciliation route, although the process is a bit murkier" (Dennis and Newmyer, 10/14).
Fatigue is becoming a factor for everyone in the Capitol, The Hill reports: "The daily grind of delivering floor speeches, holding intra-party caucus meetings and cranking out front-page news stories on healthcare reform has left many on Capitol Hill in a general daze." As Democrats search for the votes they need for passage, lawmakers are expressing exasperation at the process. (Hooper, 10/14).