Senate Democrats Plot New Strategy, Consider Reconciliation To Pass Health Bill
Senate Democrats are increasingly considering using budget reconciliation - which would need a simple majority of 51 votes - to pass health care reform without Republican support, The New York Times reports.
"After consulting experts in Senate rules and procedure, the Democrats said they were increasingly confident that they could legislate creation of a public plan in a way that would withstand challenges expected from Republicans. Appearing Sunday on the NBC News program Meet the Press, Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate, said a public insurance plan was 'essential to getting the costs down, which is our No. 1 problem.' Mr. Schumer said it was 'looking less and less likely' that Republicans would support Democratic proposals to subsidize coverage for tens of millions of the uninsured" (Pear, 8/23).
Reuters on using reconciliation: "'The fact of the matter is, that if they use that, it would be an abuse of the process,' Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch said on 'Meet the Press'" (Rucker, 8/23).
Roll Call: "'It's an option, but not a good one,' Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said on CBS's Face the Nation. The Budget chairman said the strategy - proposed by some Democratic leaders - would result in 'Swiss cheese instead of legislation,' since substantive reforms would have to be stripped out under the chamber's budget-reconciliation rules" (Heil, 8/23).
Congress Daily: "Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., told Fox News Sunday that the tactic should be viewed as a last resort but is something he would consider supporting. Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said last week after meeting with President Obama that it could be the only way to advance a bill. Senate Finance ranking member Charles Grassley, who joined Conrad on CBS, trumpeted his committee's plan to establish a co-op system of healthcare coverage as an alternative to the health insurance public option that many Democrats support" (Noyes, 8/23).
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Democrats' Go-It-Alone Strategy
Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., said Obama should reconsider his timetable for a push at reform on CNN's State of the Union, The Los Angeles Times reports: "'We morally, every one of us, would like to cover every American with health insurance,' Lieberman said. 'But that's where you spend most of the $1 trillion-plus' that the healthcare overhaul is estimated to cost over 10 years. 'And I'm afraid we've got to think about putting a lot of that off until the economy's out of recession'" (Parsons and Tankersley, 8/24).
The Wall Street Journal: "Speaking on the same show, Indiana Republican Sen. Richard Lugar agreed. 'I would advise the president that the bringing up of the health-care situation in the midst of recession, the unemployment problems that Sen. Lieberman described, was a mistake. And therefore he ought to postpone the decision'" (Fields, 8/24).
Sen. John McCain also Sunday told ABC's "This Week" that Obama should drop proposals for a public plan, The Associated Press reports: "McCain says many Americans are losing confidence in Obama partly because of concerns about the so-called public option. The Arizona Republican proposed that Obama meet with members of both parties in Congress to find areas of agreement, abandon the public option, and then make clear exactly what he wants in the legislation." (8/23).
The Hill: "One problem for Democrats is the health of some of their members. Sens. Edward Kennedy (Mass.) and Robert Byrd (W.Va.) are both ailing, and it's not clear that their votes can be counted on. Kennedy, who is battling brain cancer, this week sent a letter to Massachusetts leaders asking them to change state laws so that there would not be a vacancy in the Senate for a lengthy period of time if Kennedy dies. The best chance for a healthcare bill to win support from both Republicans and Democrats might come from the Senate Finance Committee, which is struggling to put together a bipartisan bill" (Swanson and O'Brien, 8/23).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.