GOP, Democrats Continue Staking Out Reform Positions, Strategies In Advance Of Health Summit
The Associated Press: The White House is preparing a bill "designed to win passage without Republican support if GOP lawmakers fail to embrace bipartisan compromises" during next week's White House health summit. "A senior White House official said Thursday that Democratic negotiators are resolving final differences in House and Senate health bills that passed last year with virtually no Republican help." The plan, then, is to post "the proposals online by Monday morning, three days ahead of the Feb. 25 summit, which GOP leaders are approaching warily." The White House officials said the negotiations are centering around what House Democrats are willing to accept in a bill under the premise that the Senate will likely use reconciliation that would prevent a GOP filibuster to pass the bill (Babington, 2/18).
The Hill: House Majority Whip James Clyburn said Thursday that a public option for health insurance "could very well" be part of a final health overhaul bill after more than a dozen senators have signed on to a letter asking that the proposal be a part of the final overhaul bill and that reconciliation be used to pass the bill. "'So I think so far as the public option is concerned, if you're going to do a 50-vote or a 50-plus-one strategy, rather than a 60-vote strategy, I'm not too sure that the public option cannot be a part of this plan,' Clyburn said during an appearance on MSNBC. Clyburn's remarks are the strongest signal yet from a member of the Democratic leadership that the controversial public option could be reincorporated into healthcare legislation." In the House, 119 members have pledged their support for reintroduction of the public option into a bill (O'Brien, 2/18).
The Associated Press: Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said Thursday that she's optimistic that a health reform bill can come out of next week's bipartisan summit and that an overhaul can be passed in six weeks, but that in order to do so, lawmakers must put aside partisan bickering. She said that Republicans and Democrats actually agree on "significant reforms" including tax credits for small business and the self-employed, and some cost-containment measures (2/18).
Business First of Louisville: Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said at a meeting of the Rotary Club of Louisville Thursday that Republicans have held firm in the reform stalemate because Democrats' proposals include "a reduction in Medicare spending." McConnell did say, though, he'd like to see both sides agree on reforms that include "limits on frivolous lawsuits against health care providers, tax deductions for people who purchase individual health care plans, favorable regulations for the creation of association health plans and provisions for consumers to purchase health insurance across state lines." McConnell also seemed to signal that he will be among the Republicans at the summit by saying that he and other members will meet with Obama next week to discuss common ground (Adams, 2/18).
The Hill, in a separate story: House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, expressed displeasure today about Democrats' ongoing effort "to piece together an agreement on healthcare reform" before next week's summit and renewed calls for the White House to start over -- from scratch. Boehner's office issued a statement today noting that it's one week before the "bipartisan" event, "'and Washington Democrats are scrambling to salvage their massive - and quite partisan - government takeover of health care,' the statement says. 'But for all that, Democrats may not even have a backroom deal ready by the summit despite promises to post it online in advance'" (Young, 2/18).