Democrats, Bolstered By Obama Speech, Promise To Move Reform Legislation By Fall
Democrats are promising to pass a health care reform bill by this fall after President Obama this week called for action. But in order to do that, the White House is holding meetings with moderates while liberal Democrats are asking for a meeting of their own. Other members are staking out clear positions on key policy issues.
The Wall Street Journal: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) said he hopes legislation can be sent to the White House 'well before Thanksgiving.' House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) added she is 'confident the president will sign a bill this year,' despite lingering divisions among Democrats on key issues, such as whether to create a government-run health plan to compete with private insurers" (Hitt and Weisman, 9/11).
The Associated Press/Boston Globe: "Increasingly, events in the Senate Finance Committee appeared pivotal, precursor to likely votes in both the House and the Senate by early October. Democrats are divided over the public option in both houses, liberals strongly in favor and many moderates against it. Critically, though, it appears that any chance for Republican support would evaporate if legislation permits immediate, direct competition between the government and insurance industry" (Espo, 9/10).
The Hill: "Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) told reporters earlier in the day that Obama's speech had given new life to bipartisan negotiations. 'The president's speech kind of breathed new life into what we're doing,' Baucus said. 'It's basically our plan'" (Bolton and Young, 9/10).
The Associated Press: "Aides were reviewing lists of proposed changes from members of the (Finance Committee group of negotiators) - primarily the Republicans - touching on issues that included how much states must pay for a proposed expansion of Medicaid, prohibiting federal funding of abortion, reducing medical malpractice costs, ensuring illegal immigrants don't get insurance and a possible phase-in of coverage for legal immigrants" (Werner, 9/11).
The Washington Post: "But the group still appears to be struggling with how to settle the basic questions of how much health coverage should uninsured people be required to obtain, and how much the government should help to pay for it. This nettlesome challenge has dominated discussions among the negotiators - the so-called Gang of Six - for at least two months. As they continued their talks, congressional Democrats on Thursday began their push to unify their ranks behind President Obama's outline for health-care legislation, hours after the president laid out that plan in a speech that was met with loud protests from some Republican lawmakers" (Murray and Kane, 9/10).
Roll Call reports that Obama met with moderate Democrats and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland Thursday: "The meeting with centrist Democrats was spearheaded by Sens. Evan Bayh (Ind.), Tom Carper (Del.) and Blanche Lincoln (Ark.), who head a working group of moderates, and it even included a few lawmakers whose record is more left-of-center. The meeting lasted for about an hour, and the 17 Senators who participated left the White House without talking to reporters. However, in a prepared statement released following the meeting, Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), one of the Senators in attendance, suggested that the cost of health care reform - and the need to focus on cost as a matter of political messaging - were points the group might have raised with Obama" (Drucker, 9/10).
House liberals have asked for their own meeting with Obama, Roll Call reports in a second story (Newmyer, 9/10).
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., endorsed the idea of insurance cooperatives at the same time that he reiterated his support for a government-run public option, Politico reports: "'If we can come up with a concept of a cooperative that does just that - that is, it makes more competition and makes insurance companies honest, yes, I think that would fill fill the bill,' Reid said" (Raju, 9/10).
Finally, CQ Politics: "House Ways and Means Chairman Charles B. Rangel said Thursday that he does not plan to include any tax or fee on high-cost insurance plans in the House health care bill, despite President Obama's endorsement of such a provision. But Rangel stopped short of ruling it out completely, noting he has to consider any proposal that would help Democrats corral the majority of votes needed to move a bill through the House" (9/10).