Health Reform Stalled in Congress By Busy Schedule, Divided Lawmakers
"Lawmakers from both parties are telling the White House they will go on vacation next month and leave behind - and incomplete - President Barack Obama's health care overhaul," the Associated Press reports. The White House had long pushed lawmakers to complete their proposal by the recess, a target that now appears unlikely.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said he does "expect the House and Senate to have passed bills" by the August recess, but those proposals are likely to be quite different from each other. One point of contention is that the House seeks to pay for reform by hiking taxes on the wealthy, while Senate Democrats have sought to keep moderates in the fold by protecting them from such proposals. "There is no chance that it's going to be done by August," said Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz. (Elliot, 7/13).
Part of the challenge is that lawmakers have so much on their plate, the Wall Street Journal reports, with health reform "wrangling" and confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor colliding this week. Further complicating the busy schedule, "lawmakers remain divided over how to pay for the health reform program" (Williamson, 7/12).
Meanwhile, "moderate Democrats last week told their leaders all the things they don't want them to do with health care reform," according to Politico. "Don't model public coverage on Medicare. Don't force doctors or small businesses to participate. And don't shut out Republicans. But each concern speaks to a single, overarching plea: Please don't go too far left of the Senate."
Despite some challenges, "House Democratic leaders still hope to approve a robust new network of government-sponsored health care this year," Politico reports. "That plan hit a roadblock last week when moderate Democrats sought and got time with their leaders to protest 'the process and direction' in which the authors were headed" (O'Connor, 7/13).
And, "On a broad array of contentious issues from government's role in providing insurance to the size of subsidies for lower-income Americans the liberals who largely control the agenda in the House are holding fast to their principles," Kaiser Health News reports, continuing: "The legislation expected to be formally unveiled, perhaps as soon as today, will reflect their vision of how to insure nearly all Americans and how to pay for it including a proposal to tax the wealthy that was announced Friday. But the Democratic liberals face stiff challenges from moderates and conservatives in their own party on the price tag of legislation. Growing pressure to lower the cost to $1 trillion or less over ten years poses a threat to their foremost goal of guaranteeing Americans comprehensive, affordable coverage" (Pianin and Rau, 7/13).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.