House Dems To Open Hearings Amid Controversy Over Finances, Public Plan
"House Democrats are pushing forward with a partisan health care bill even as a key Senate Democrat labors to achieve an elusive bipartisan compromise on President Barack Obama's top legislative priority," The Associated Press reports. "The draft legislation, written without Republican help, would require all Americans to purchase health insurance and would put new requirements on employers, too." The House bill was unveiled last week and "is to be weighed in hearings beginning Tuesday."
"Obama's goal for signing a bill in October to control costs and provide health coverage to 50 million uninsured Americans appears in doubt. But Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, is doggedly pursuing a compromise. 'We will get a bipartisan agreement,' he insisted Monday."
Lawmakers in both the House and Senate are "mindful of next week's July 4 congressional recess," when "most will return home to face constituents with plenty of questions about their plans to overhaul the nation's costly health care system" (Werner, 6/23).
The Washington Post reports that interest groups are "striking a more skeptical tone" to some of the more specific ideas now emerging in the health care debate. "The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has launched an offensive against any sort of 'pay or play' provision that would require businesses to either provide health insurance to employees or contribute to a health fund." And America's Health Insurance Plans "reacted quickly and negatively to the 852-page draft bill in the House, targeting a plan to form a new non-profit government-sponsored health insurance program" (Connolly, 6/22).
Meanwhile, "The Blue Dog Coalition, a group of fiscally conservative House Democrats who largely hail from Southern and Midwestern states, could prove critical in passage of the Obama administration's healthcare policies," McClatchy reports. But some members "complain that liberal committee chairmen are shutting them out of the legislation-crafting process." Blue Dogs were unhappy that a draft bill "centered heavily on a government-run public health care option," and also that there was "no mention of the public option being used only as a fallback that could be triggered years from now, a sticking point for many Blue Dogs." Members says they "remain flexible-to a point, but are adamant that reform not greatly increase the national debt."
"Though White House officials also met with Blue Dogs this month to discuss their concerns over healthcare reform, the Obama administration has made it clear that a public option will form the cornerstone of reform efforts." "The Blue Dog coalition and the similarly centrist New Democrats Coalition claim just over 100 of the House's of the House's 435 members" (Abdullah, 6/22).