Dems Prepare Message As Congress Reacts To Kennedy’s Health Reform Draft
Congressional Democrats are preparing the message to go with their sweeping health reform in both the House and the Senate, after Sen. Edward Kennedy's draft reform bill was circulated, CNN.com reports.
"As Democrats on Capitol Hill move toward revealing landmark bills to drastically reform the nation's health care system, the White House and the Democratic National Committee are increasing efforts to rally public support." President Obama prepared a taped speech for the meetings, outlining his three goals of controlling costs, guaranteeing choice and access to care. Organizers hope the weekend is part of a larger plan to lobby during the summer using canvassing similar to the way the group gathered support for Obama's budget. Republicans in the meantime say the meetings will not help build consensus.
""There is a bipartisan effort that could be made here that could result in broad-based support for real changes in our health care system that the American people want," said Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, who leads a House GOP task force. "I would like to be part of that. Lots of Republicans would, too, but we can't get through the door to be really part of this discussion" (Bohn, 6/7).
The DNC's efforts are part of laying the groundwork for support of a reform bill, due in various iterations by mid-June, The Hill reports: "The HELP Committee is slated to markup the full bill the week of June 15. The Senate Finance panel is operating on a similar timetable, as are the three House committees working on healthcare reform. Democrats in Congress wants to pass the bills by July 31 with the goal of combining them into a final package Obama could sign before the end of the year" (Crabtree, 6/6).
Part of the efforts at solving health reform could include taxing the wealthy instead of workers to pay for part of the reform, Bloomberg reports: "The president is trying to avoid broad-based levies such as a Senate proposal to tax some employer-provided health benefits (Presidential Adviser David) Axelrod said. Instead he is urging lawmakers to reconsider limiting all tax deductions for Americans in the highest tax brackets. Obama's own proposal would set a 28 percent cap on tax deductions for items such as mortgage interest, investment expenses and charitable gifts for Americans in the two highest tax brackets, which would be 36 percent and 39.6 percent under his proposals. Without the cap, they would be able to deduct 36 cents and 39.6 cents on the dollar for those expenses, respectively. Obama also proposes new taxes on securities dealers and life insurers, and to raise revenue by prohibiting certain estate-planning techniques" (Litvan and Donmoyer, 6/7).
Politico weighs in on still another Democratic proposal at reform from the House Energy and Commerce Committee as it details a bill that would create a public plan and set a minimum standard of benefits: "It is the 'goal' at this time to fix the payment formula for physicians who take Medicare patients, the outline stated. Such a change would be a huge win for doctors, who have long sought a permanent fix of the 'sustainable growth rate' system, which regularly calls for cuts in reimbursement rates. Congress steps in each year to suspend the proposed cuts, which would be 21 percent in 2010." (Brown, 6/6).
Leadership, however, still wrangles over details of the bill though they insist a bipartisan bill remains possible, The New York Times reports: "Still, (Sens. Max) Baucus (D-Montana) and (Chuck) Grassley (R-Iowa) expressed optimism in a joint interview on Thursday that 2009 is different, and that their backstage negotiations would soon clear remaining obstacles. 'As sure as we're sitting here, it's going to happen,' Mr. Baucus said in their committee's hearing room, where they vowed to introduce legislation jointly by mid-month. 'It will get over the goal line,' Mr. Grassley said" (Harwood, 6/7).
Democrats must also vie with big employers, hospitals and labor unions in the debate, CQPolitics reports: "These are the groups to watch in the coming health care debate, because they could stand between advocates of an overhaul and two of the biggest pots of money available to cover the uninsured: Medicare payments for hospital inpatient care and the tax 'exclusion' on health care costs for people who get their policies through their employers" (Reichard, 6/6)
Democratic members of the HELP Committee are scheduled to meet today to continue discussions of Kennedy's bill with the hopes of involving Republican Wednesday, The Washington Post reports: " Across the Capitol, House Democrats are hoping to get an update Tuesday on the status of legislation being written by a three-headed committee monster" (Connolly, 6/8).