Lawmakers Discuss Health Reform Bill’s Future; Reid Says Senate Won’t Take Further Action Until Brown Is Seated
After "long-shot" Republican candidate Scott Brown won Massachusetts' Tuesday Senate election "no clear strategy emerged to keep President Barack Obama's top domestic priority moving through the halls of Congress. With the loss of the crucial 60th vote, two alternatives moved into consideration," Politico reports. "One idea is to pass the Senate bill through the House, with the addition of a 'cleanup' bill that could be done through a parliamentary process, known as reconciliation, that requires only 51 votes." Also among possible plans is "to move a dramatically scaled-back bill either through reconciliation or by attracting Republican votes" (O'Connor and Brown, 1/20).
Roll Call: Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said Congressional leaders are "trying to find a way to move very quickly [on health reform] and to basically satisfy the concerns of both the Senate and the House. ... 'We've got to figure out, you know, how we put the two pieces together, by two pieces I mean the House and the Senate approaches and we're working on that right now.'" According to Roll Call, "Baucus and House leaders indicated that using complex budget reconciliation rules might be the preferred method to get the bill across the finish line." House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) also "hinted strongly" about using reconciliation (Pierce and Dennis, 1/20).
The Hill: Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) "made clear his openness to applying budget reconciliation to healthcare, a position he opposed prior to this week's special election in Massachusetts, is contingent on the content of the bill." Conrad is quoted as saying, "If the House passed the Senate bill, could reconciliation, that process, be used to fix things that might be improved upon? Yes." He did not promise his support of reconciliation without knowing what it would include (Young, 1/20).
USA Today's On Politics: "Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe, one of two Republicans in Congress to vote in favor of any version of President Obama's health care legislation, said she remains opposed to the current version of the bill." Snowe said, "I never say anything is dead, but I think that clearly they're going to have to revisit the entire issue." Maine's other Senator, Susan Collins, "echoed" these comments: "'I hope what the White House will do is start from scratch,' Collins said. 'There are many provisions in this bill that have bipartisan support. The way to proceed is to start from scratch'" (1/20).
ABC News' George's Bottom Line highlighted sections of George Stephanopoulos' interview with President Obama: Obama said, "Well, here's, here's one thing I know and I just want to make sure that this is off the table. The Senate certainly shouldn't try to jam anything through until Scott Brown is seated." He added, "I would advise that we try to move quickly to coalesce around those elements of the package that people agree on. We know that we need insurance reform. ... We know that we have to have some form of cost containment ... and we know that small businesses are going to need help so that they can provide health insurance to their families" (1/20).
"Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid yielded to calls from members of both parties on Thursday and said the Senate would take no additional action on sweeping healthcare legislation until Republican Senator-elect Scott Brown is seated," Reuters reports (1/20).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.