Deal Time? Key Senate Dems Meet On Public Option In Health Bill
News outlets are reporting that a group of Democratic senators are trying to forge a compromise on the public option in the sweeping health reform bill.
CongressDaily: "Ten moderate and liberal Senate Democrats meeting on a public option for the healthcare overhaul bill were closing in on an agreement tonight. 'Yeah, there's sort of a, sort of a kind of a general agreement on where we're headed on this thing,' Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Tom Harkin said. 'There's still some details, right, the devil's in the details.'"
"'People are open in ways that they have not been open before. Sometimes people just out of sheer fatigue can agree to things,' said Senate Finance Health Subcommittee Chairman John (Jay) Rockefeller, D-W.Va." (Edney, 12/5).
Politico: "There appeared to be serious consideration of a new proposal on the table: a national health plan similar to the Federal Employee Health Benefits Plan, which provides insurance to members of Congress and federal workers. It would be administered by the Office of Personnel Management, which oversees the federal plan, and all of the insurance options would be not-for-profit. 'So in other words, what we got is a national plan that the progressives would like, but that's where that middle is, we're trying to find that middle,' said Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa)" (Budoff Brown, 12/5).
Roll Call: "'We're making good progress, and we are discussing the public option and related issues,' said Senate Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.), who noted they had met three times Saturday.
In addition to Rockefeller and Schumer, participants in the Democratic meetings Saturday included Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Tom Harkin (Iowa) and Sens. Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Russ Feingold (Wis.), Tom Carper (Del.), Ben Nelson (Neb.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Blanche Lincoln (Ark.), and Mary Landrieu (La.). Schumer and Pryor have been leading the effort" (Pierce, 12/5).
NPR: "[T]he real action on the bill is taking place not on the Senate floor, but in [Majority Leader Harry] Reid's office, just steps away. That's where he's struggling to bring together the liberal and moderate wings of his caucus, in an effort to get the 60 votes he needs to thwart the united GOP front that will otherwise prevent the bill from winning final approval. On Sunday, Obama will address a closed meeting of Senate Democrats, presumably for a pep talk, and also to give them more guidance on just what he wants from a final health bill" (Rovner, 12/5).
Meanwhile, senators continued to vote on amendments to the bill.
The New York Times: "By a vote of 53 to 41, the Senate on Saturday rejected a Republican effort to block cutbacks in payments to home health agencies that provide nursing care and therapy to homebound Medicare beneficiaries. Republicans voted against the cuts, saying they would hurt some of the nation's most vulnerable citizens. Most Democrats supported the cutbacks, saying they would eliminate waste and inefficiency in home care. The Democrats' health care bill would reduce projected Medicare spending on home care by $43 billion, or 13 percent, over the next 10 years. The savings would help offset the cost of subsidizing coverage for the uninsured. (Pear, 12/5).
Bloomberg: "The home health-care measure, by Nebraska Republican Mike Johanns, is one of a series of proposals by Republicans designed to draw attention to the possible impact on patients of the health-care legislation. 'These Medicare cuts will impact the quality of care for millions of American seniors,' said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican. The Democratic-led Senate instead adopted, 96-0, a proposal by Senator John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, prohibiting any cuts to home health care that would affect patients" (Litvan, 12/5).
The Associated Press: "Four moderate Democrats joined all Republicans present in voting for the amendment: Sens. Jim Webb of Virginia, Evan Bayh of Indiana, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Ben Nelson of Nebraska. Underscoring the pressures on the moderates, Lincoln, who faces a difficult re-election next year, initially cast a "no" vote with the Democratic majority but switched to "yes" in the course of the 15-minute vote. Republicans accused her of flip-flopping, but Lincoln said later that she changed her vote after considering how important home health care is to Arkansas" (Werner, 12/5).
The Hill: "Democrats have pushed back against the GOP strategy by noting that the AARP supports the Medicare reductions, which will help pay for the rest of the healthcare reform legislation. Democrats accused Republicans on Saturday of standing in the way of healthcare proposals that will help all Americans, including seniors" (Alarkon, 12/5).