Challenges, Optimism Remain For Senators After Public Option Amendments Fail
Senate Democrats are recouping from yesterday's Finance Committee turn-down of the public option and looking ahead.
The Associated Press: "Public plan supporters vowed to keep up their fight as the bill moves toward the Senate floor, and then to negotiations with the House. Democratic leaders in both chambers are pushing for floor votes in the fall. But first the bill has to get out of the Finance Committee, where hurdles will greet senators as they reconvene Wednesday for their sixth day of work. Among them: amendments expected to be offered by minority Republicans to strengthen prohibitions against illegal immigrants getting federal funding to buy insurance. Also pending are amendments to ensure there is no federal funding for abortion" (Werner, 9/30).
McClatchy Newspapers: "The Finance Committee is expected to finish drafting its version of the legislation later this week. It then will be merged with a quite different measure, approved in the summer by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, that includes a public option. Senate leaders hope to begin full Senate debate in mid- to late October. If the final bill does not include a public option, an amendment seeking to include one is likely to reach a floor vote" (Lightman, 9/29).
The Christian Science Monitor: "The vote potentially sets the stage for an epic showdown in a month or so, when House and Senate leaders sit down to negotiate a compromise bill. The Senate Finance Committee is the last to complete work on an overhaul of the healthcare system. After the Finance panel completes work on its version of the bill, perhaps this week, its bill will be merged with the version produced by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions panel, which includes a public option. If Senate Democratic leaders go with the Finance panel and drop a public option from the merged version of the bill, as expected, it simplifies passage in the Senate, but sets up a direct confrontation with the House. "Since all three of the House bills include a public option, the merged version of the House bill is certain to have a public option" (Russell Chaddock, 9/29).
Politico reports that the public option's fate may fall to Obama: "Not long from now, Obama's going to have to referee the whole thing." The Finance Committee bill now is the only version of health legislation moving in Congress without the government plan. "Now, squabbling Democrats are looking to the president to be the final arbiter of whether they include the public option in the version of the bill that goes to the Senate floor - and later, whether it will emerge in compromise legislation from a House-Senate conference" (Budoff Brown, 9/29).