Finance Committee Gains Momentum From CBO Report, Dem Pressure… Maybe
"Congressional Democrats are determined to show progress on health care overhaul by pushing President Barack Obama's top domestic priority through two critically important committees before they head home for their August break," the Associated Press reports. "In the Senate, negotiators on the Finance Committee say they are nearer to a bipartisan compromise that has eluded them for weeks" (Alonso-Zaldivar and Werner, 7/30).
The Finance Committee got a boost yesterday from a Congressional Budget Office report that said the current version of their draft bill would cost $900 billion, which is less than earlier estimates, to cover 95 percent of the population, Politico reports: "But even in a day of positive developments for Democrats, Senate Republicans, including those involved in the bipartisan talks, said a Finance Committee agreement before the August recess may not be possible. 'I don't see a way that we can finish before the recess,' said Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), one of the negotiators" (Budoff Brown and O'Connor, 7/30).
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the senior Finance Republican, said yesterday that the panel was closer than ever to an agreement, but that important differences were unresolved, Roll Call reports. "The 5 percent [of issues to be discussed] that are left are very difficult, and I can't say that we're on the edge of getting them decided, but we're making some progress by inches." Separately, Roll Call also reports, Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., offered a similar caution: "Keep in mind the draft does not include resolution of several key issues. Nevertheless, the report is encouraging" (Drucker, 7/29).
More liberal Democrats are growing impatient with Baucus' restraint and willingness to negotiate with the Republicans, the Hill reports. "In an apparent warning to [Baucus], some liberal Democrats have suggested a secret-ballot vote every two years on whether or not to strip committee chairmen of their gavels," according to the report. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said, "Every two years the caucus could have a secret ballot on whether a chairman should continue, yes or no" (Bolton, 7/29).