Pelosi, Reid Search For Health Reform’s Forward Path
Legislative leaders in search of momentum on health reform "conceded that they did not have an immediate strategy for advancing a health care measure and described their time frame as open-ended," The New York Times reports.
"Speaker Nancy Pelosi, at a news conference in the Capitol, said House Democrats had begun exploring the possibility of breaking out pieces of the comprehensive bill they passed in November and moving forward on smaller measures. 'It means, we will move on many fronts, any front we can,' Ms. Pelosi said. 'We'll go through the gate. If the gate's closed, we'll go over the fence. If the fence is too high, we'll pole-vault in. If that doesn't work, we'll parachute in. But we're going to get health care reform passed for the American people, for their own personal health and economic security, and for the important role that it will play in reducing the deficit.'" One of the first measures that could move as a stand-alone reform proposal could be to eliminate the antitrust exemption for health insurance companies (Herszenhorn and Pear, 1/28).
CQ Politics reports that the House could begin moving the smaller health care reform bills next month. "The legislation, which may consist of more than one bill, will include proposals that can win quick majority approval." Pelosi's aides said they plan on bringing them to the floor before the House leaves for its Presidents Day recess Feb. 11 (1/28).
The Washington Times: Though Pelosi is eager to move forward on these measures, which could allow Democrats to claim "a small victory," she also "said she would and wait to see how the Senate pursues obtaining a comprehensive bill now that Democrats no longer have a supermajority" (Haberkorn, 1/29).
The Washington Post: "Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said he felt 'a little bit' more confident about the health-care bill's prospects after" Obama's speech Wednesday. "Reid and Pelosi said they remain stalled on the most likely option for moving ahead on health-care reform. That would require the Senate to pass a bill, through a parliamentary move requiring a simple majority, resolving issues in its version of the legislation that have prompted objections from House Democrats. That would allow the House to then approve the Senate's measure, thus avoiding another vote on the entire bill in the Senate, where it would almost certainly face a successful 41-vote filibuster by Republicans" (Kane and Murray, 1/29).
Roll Call: "Reid said he is looking 'very, very closely'" at the budget reconciliation strategy. "Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), however, indicated there could be a time limit on how long Democrats can wait to use the reconciliation route ... 'The authority for reconciliation is under the old budget resolution," he told reporters. "There's no specific time limit, but you have to pass a budget resolution before you can start the appropriations committee allocations.' ... While the deadline for passing a new budget resolution is April 15 of every year, Congress routinely blows past that date.
Asked whether he believes leaders could corral 51 votes for a reconciliation bill, Durbin said: 'It depends on what's in the package. We can't assume we have 51 votes. We need to present a package'" (Pierce, 1/28).
CongressDaily: Senate moderate Democrats [such as Tom Carper, D-Del.,] called a meeting Wednesday with their Blue Dog colleagues in the House to discuss health care, as well as fiscal issues. "'We need to know,' he said of House members' views. 'We spent all this time working on health care, and the idea that we're just going to let it die ... would be the worst'" (Edney, 1/29).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.