Senate Dems Prepare Contingency Plans As Finance Negotiators Grapple For A Deal
"Senate Democrats may decide to pass a U.S. health-care overhaul without Republican support if some opposition lawmakers don't agree to a plan by mid-September," Senator Charles Schumer[ D-N.Y.] said" according to Bloomberg. Schumer said Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., set a self-imposed deadline of Sept. 15 to lead a negotiating team, composed of three Republicans and three Democrats within his Finance Committee, to a bipartisan compromise.
"'If we cannot produce a bipartisan solution by then, you have to wonder if the Republicans would ever be willing to agree to anything,' Schumer said on a conference call with reporters yesterday. 'We will enact health-care reform by the end of the year. If the Republicans are not able to produce an agreement, we will have contingencies in play.' ... Schumer said Democrats may invoke the practice of 'reconciliation,' which requires only 51 votes for Senate passage" (Rowley, 8/4).
"While Republicans such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have derided Democrats' attempts to pass a major health-care bill, the three Republicans involved in negotiations still appear interested in reaching a compromise," Dow Jones Newswires/Wall Street Journal reports. The Republican leadership has been intervening in the Finance Committee negotiations, one Democratic member of the panel said, 'cracking the whip' whenever members approach a breakthrough (Yoest, 8/3).
"The clout of the few and particularly the importance of the Senate Finance working group can be a source of frustration for the many on Capitol Hill," the Christian Science Monitor reports. Aides to Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., one of the three Republicans negotiating, said the requirements for a compromise include paying for the bill without incurring new debt; covering everyone; and preserving 'robust competition,' meaning the public insurance plan prized by Democrats is a no-go. "It's no secret that [House] members sometimes think: Why do I always read in the paper that they're checking with the [Senate] Finance Committee all the time," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif (Chaddock, 8/3).
The Hill: Schumer said that even if a compromise discounts the coveted public option, such a plan would end up in the final Senate bill anyway. The Finance bill will have to be merged with a more liberal bill from the health committee before the full Senate votes on it (Young, 8/3).
Roll Call: Enzi said he does not support the Sept. 15 deadline to cut a bipartisan deal or resort to contingency plans that would leave Republicans out. "I have not and will not agree to an artificial deadline because I am committed to getting health care reform right, not finishing a bill by some arbitrary date," he said (Drucker, 8/3).
Boston Globe: As Finance members continue to grapple, other Democrats are preparing to take their messages on the road this month. Sen. Chris Dodd, the acting leader of the health committee who was diagnosed with prostate cancer last month, said "that he will spend the month of August pushing for national health care reform while dealing with his own health care issues" (Nelson, 8/3).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.