Senate Finance Members Weigh Their Health Bill Votes
Senators are trying to get a count ahead of the Senate Finance Committee's vote on a health reform proposal Tuesday, but several members are refusing to tip their hand. Meanwhile, in the background, House lawmakers continue their work.
The Hill: The Finance Chairman Max "Baucus needs 12 votes but two Democrats, Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia and Ron Wyden of Oregon, in particular remain disgruntled about his bill. The lone possible Republican supporter, Sen. Olympia Snowe (Maine), refuses to state her intentions. If more than one of those three senators joins the panel's Republicans and votes against the bill, healthcare reform would suffer a tough blow on Tuesday and might not recover."
But prospects for the bill to get the votes and move to the Senate floor look good as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is in the thick of melding the Finance Bill with the more liberal Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension bill. The Hill also looks at several senators' misgivings and reasons for supporting the bill (Young, 10/12).
The Hill reports in a second story that the outlook for an alternative approach to the public option - health co-ops - are increasingly slim. "While Baucus's bill gained new momentum because of a favorable cost analysis from the Congressional Budget Office, the same CBO report may have delivered a fatal blow to a major element in his plan, health insurance co-ops." The CBO said it's unlikely that co-ops will get any real market share for insurance coverage in the states. "Democrats such as Sen. Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) and Sherrod Brown (Ohio) have pounced on this development to push the public option or a slightly modified alternative. The newest proposal to gain momentum would create a national government health insurance plan and give individual states the option of not participating. It's a variation of a compromise floated by Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and remains in its preliminary stages" (Bolton, 10/11).
The Los Angeles Times has a health care Q&A on the vote. The piece explores the significance of this upcoming vote, explains what comes after the Finance panel action and details some specific policy issues. For instance, about the new "opt-out" public option now being discussion, the Times writes: "The idea is an attempt to attract liberal supporters who believe a so-called public option must be part of a final bill and moderates who don't want to force the option on states. The provision is not currently part of the Finance bill, but could be added by Reid or through an amendment on the Senate floor" (Geiger, 10/11).
Bloomberg reports on Sen. Olympia Snowe, still an enigma on the Finance Committee, as Democrats wonder if they'll have her vote - the only Republican one they're even remotely likely to get. "Snowe has been noncommittal. While saying the CBO analysis of her committee's bill was 'important,' she told reporters on Oct. 7 she still has 'a lot to review.' She is one of 10 Republicans on the panel, which has 13 Democrats." Similarly, Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia won't say how they'll vote either. Meanwhile, in the other chamber, "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said last week she would decide on the final legislation she'll bring to the floor after hearing from the CBO. The No. 2 House Democrat, Maryland Representative Steny Hoyer, said the last week in October would be the earliest timeframe for a vote" (Jensen and Litvan, 10/12).
And a bipartisan group of House legislators will meet again this week to talk health care reform and will discuss areas of agreement, The Hill reports in a separate story. "The six Republicans and seven Democrats agreed to continue the 'informal conversation' started last Wednesday on areas of common ground such as insurance reform, medical malpractice and insurance portability across states." There was an hour-long session last week, but it seems unlikely the group will come forward with a bipartisan bill, lawmakers say (Hooper, 10/10).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.