Timeline, Vote Counting Continue To Be Central To Senate Health Overhaul
The Associated Press reports that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is considering higher payroll taxes on "upper-income earners to help finance health care legislation." Officials "said one of the options Reid has had under review would raise the payroll tax that goes to Medicare, but only on income above $250,000 a year. Current law sets the tax at 1.45 percent of income, an amount matched by employers." President Obama said he won't raise taxes on people making less than $250,000 a year (Espo, 11/11).
In the meantime, Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., said after a hearing on veterans' issues at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia that the Senate will likely amend the health reform bill and reiterated his support for a government-run public option for insurance, reports The Philadelphia Inquirer (Biagi, 11/11).
Roll Call reports that outside groups are getting in their jabs on one Senator before the upper chamber considers the bill. Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., "has been on the fence on whether she would support a bill with a government-funded public insurance option. The Blue America political action committee is hitting statewide Arkansas cable television with a 30-second spot demanding that Lincoln 'allow an up-or-down vote on the public option.'" The ad buy is in the five-figure range and is scheduled to run for two weeks (Drucker, 11/11).
ABC News reports that Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., will not vote for "any health care bill that looks like the bill passed by the House. Nelson's vote is critical to getting a bill passed because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid needs 60 votes before the Senate can even begin debating the bill. With all 40 Republicans currently opposed to it, Reid needs the votes of all 60 Democrats" (Karl, 11/11).
The Kennebec (Maine) Journal reports that Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe said Wednesday in her home state that she will not vote for the health reform bill if it comes to a vote under Reid's timeline - that is, debate next week and a completed bill by the end of the year. "Snowe said she last spoke with Reid on Tuesday night and urged him to slow the bill's review down, because 'the more eyes on the legislation, the better'" (Monroe, 11/12).
Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said that he can see the a compromise emerging on health care reform and that a passed bill could possibly be on Obama's desk by the end of the year, the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald reports. The compromise, Conrad said, is because the inclusion of a public option in the Senate bill will not tie reimbursement rates to Medicare. "'That's been the big problem with public option as pushed by the House,' he said. Now the House, which passed its bill late last week, 'has backed off that approach, and Harry Reid in his approach is going to drop the link to Medicare,' as he understands the leader's plans. 'So I think you can begin to see the outlines of a compromise'" (Haga, 11/11).