House Democrats Continue Push For Weekend House Vote On Health Reform Measure
House Democratic leaders continued efforts to pick-up support for health reform in the House while also tinkering around the edges of the overhaul legislative package -- all in anticipation of a Sunday vote in the House.
The New York Times: Democratic leaders worked "to secure backing for the legislation from among roughly three dozen members of the party whose votes are considered to be in play" and gained a couple votes Wednesday. "Democratic leaders say they have not nailed down the 216 votes they need for passage, but they are pressing ahead in the belief that they can get them." Meanwhile, Republicans are plotting ways to hold up the legislation, including challenging the labor agreement on high-cost plans. "Republican senators said they believed they could successfully challenge the inclusion of that agreement in the final health care package, on the ground that it would violate the rules for budget reconciliation" (Herszenhorn and Pear, 3/17).
Today's KHN Morning Edition includes additional coverage of the Republicans' strategy to counter the Democrats on health reform and reports of the new analysis by the Congressional Budget Office of the cost of the bill.
The Wall Street Journal: Democrats are looking closer at the provision related to taxing high-value health insurance plans to make the bill's numbers more palatable to lawmakers and to reduce the deficit. "To help achieve that goal, Democrats moved Wednesday to raise additional revenue from a proposed tax on high-value plans. Among other things, Democratic leaders agreed to alter how the tax's threshold would change over time, effectively encompassing more people in the second decade of the program than it would have previously. Additional steps were taken to pare the cost, individuals familiar with the matter said, with the goal of keeping the 10-year cost at $950 billion" (Hitt and Adamy, 3/18).
Bloomberg/Business Week: "The House bill passed 220-215 in November. Since then, Democrats lost four 'yes' votes because of vacancies and a switch by the only Republican who supported the bill. Another group of Democrats led by Michigan Representative Bart Stupak also threatened to defect over restrictions on abortion funding that they say aren't strong enough. All told, 37 sitting Democrats voted 'no' on the original House measure. Another 40 supported the bill while also voting 'yes' on abortion language put forth by Stupak at the time, suggesting their votes might waver" (Litvan and Rowley, 3/18).
In the meantime, leaders remain close to settling other provisions in the legislation, USA Today reports. "As a year-long process headed toward its final days, staffers tweaked the size of subsidies and taxes. House leaders debated whether to pass two bills by voting on one. And Senate leaders tried to assure skeptical House members that they would follow suit" (Wolf and Kiely, 3/18).
Los Angeles Times: And to comfort skittish House members, "Senate Democrats were preparing a letter, to be signed by a majority of the Democratic caucus, promising to approve the reconciliation bill without change - a bid to reassure House Democrats nervous that the revisions would fall by the wayside. Under Senate rules, the reconciliation bill cannot be filibustered. In finalizing details of the reconciliation bill, Democratic leaders concluded that they would face parliamentary obstacles if they included Obama's popular idea of giving the federal government authority to regulate health insurance premiums. Budget rules preclude Congress from addressing the issue in a package that is supposed to include only deficit-related matters, they decided" (Hook and Levey, 3/18).
Roll Call: Senate Democrats also held a midday caucus on health care Wednesday where they were asked to sign the letter "co-written by Pelosi's staff - expressing their general support for pushing the health care reform bill to final passage through the budget reconciliation process. House leaders have asked that, before they ask their Members to vote on both the Senate-passed bill and the reconciliation 'fixer' package, the Senate show they have the 51 votes necessary to clear reconciliation through the chamber. Senators and aides said it would put Senators on record as supporting a number of principles the reconciliation bill is expected to address. But without bill language for Senators to expressly endorse, the letter could fall short of the ironclad promises many wavering rank-and-file House Democrats want" (Pierce, 3/18).