Bingaman, Wyden Among Key Health Reform Lawmakers In The News
Newspapers highlight a few of the key congressional players in the health care debate.
Politico: "There's a little bit of Gary Cooper in Jeff Bingaman, and that's not bad for President Barack Obama if health care becomes the political High Noon this year that so many expect."
Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-NM, is "very much the man in middle as the sole Democrat" who sits on both the Senate Finance Committee and the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Politico reports. "Bingaman has stepped up to help manage the complex issues of insurance coverage at the heart of the fight, and he is a go-between for the two committees which reflect competing wings of his party." Bingaman is "smart, studied, slow to make decisions," and "very much grounded in the character of his native West." During the health care debate, Bingaman's "two greatest assets may be this sense of mooring-and an ability to reduce complex issues to pragmatic choices." On the subject of his Finance and HELP committee assignments, Bingaman told Politico that "it's two different worlds to some extent, but I think it's useful to see both perspectives" (Rogers, 6/18).
"A bipartisan proposal from Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., to replace the tax exclusion for employer-based health benefits with a standard deduction would do more to contain healthcare spending than Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus' plan to cap the exclusion, according to a recent assessment by the Joint Committee on Taxation," Congress Daily reports. "The revelation is lending a boost to Wyden as he attempts to sell Finance members on the key idea of his signature Healthy Americans Act." The bill, which the CBO has scored the bill as deficit neutral, "has 13 co-sponsors, including Sens. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.; Bill Nelson, D-Fla.; and Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, who all sit on the Finance Committee" (Edney and Cohn, 6/18).
Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., "declined to predict that the Senate would vote on a health care reform bill before the summer recess, an indication that markup delays in the Finance Committee may derail the carefully laid timetable for the legislation," Roll Call reports. "Democrats and the White House have planned to have bills pass in both the House and Senate by July," and pushing back the Senate floor debate "would not only complicate the health bill, but it could back up plans to move energy legislation in the fall." Dodd "appeared to display some frustration with the decision by Senate Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) to postpone a markup" (Koggler, 6/17).
The Hill reports that "the major provision endorsed by 2008 GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is not part of the House Republican's "vision" for health care reform. Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., "chairman of the Health Care Solutions Group that spent months writing a 'comprehensive' reform plan, said that McCain's proposal to tax employer-based benefits was 'certainly not part of our plan" (Hooper, 6/17).