Senator Kennedy’s Absence Looms Large
Roll Call reports that lobbyists feel Senator Edward Kennedy's absence: "With the health care reform debate in full tilt, it's fair to assume that the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is the key player in producing the final version of the Senate's package. But with HELP Chairman Kennedy (D-Mass.) largely absent because of his battle with brain cancer, it's not business as usual at the committee. The HELP Committee has certainly played a role in health care reform, but it has largely been a staff-driven process, according to health care lobbyists."
Roll Call reports: "For the past year and a half, Kennedy's staff met with health care stakeholders to come up with HELP's proposal. But after HELP came forward with its legislative product, several of the people in those meetings felt as though the committee had not listened to their concerns at all and came out with the same proposal that it would have if the meetings never occurred, lobbyists said. Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) has emerged as acting chairman of the committee and has tried to corral the process, but the bill that has emerged is more of a goal post and not close to what is likely to be the final legislative product, health care lobbyists say."
Lobbyists also told Roll Call that without Kennedy, "Dodd is doing the best he can, but Kennedy's absence has created a mismatch between HELP and the Finance Committee, the other Senate committee developing health care legislation. Dodd is still chairman of the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, which continues to deal with the meltdown of the financial system and President Barack Obama's plan for overhauling the regulatory system. On top of these pressing issues, Dodd is facing a tough re-election race in 2010. ... Dodd has also taken the reins on trying to get a deal regarding the three major health care issues that are still being negotiated in the reform debate - whether it will include a public insurance plan, language on biologics and an employee mandate" (Palmer, 7/6).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.