Monday, January 25, 2010

Pass the damn bill (#3) - Washington Monthly/Politico

Here's how it could (and probably should) be done. From Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly's "Political Animal" blog.

--Jeff Weintraub
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Washington Monthly (Political Animal)
January 23, 2010
By Steve Benen

THE TALKS THAT MAY SAVE HEALTH CARE REFORM.... Over the last few days, it's become increasingly evident that congressional Democrats aren't sure how, when, or whether to move forward on health care reform. There is an obvious course that would deliver an extraordinary victory -- the House passes the Senate bill, then approves changes through reconciliation -- but fear is driving reluctance.

Politico reports that there will apparently be some talks this weekend that may save health care reform (and save the Democratic Party, and save the lives of uninsured Americans, and save countless families from bankruptcy).

Struggling to salvage health reform, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have begun considering a list of changes to the Senate bill in hopes of making it acceptable to liberal House members, according to sources familiar with the situation.

The changes could be included in separate legislation that, if passed, would pave the way for House approval of the Senate bill -- a move that would preserve President Barack Obama's vision of a sweeping health reform plan. [...]

The changes are being worked on this weekend with plans for Pelosi to present them to her caucus next week, according to sources familiar with the situation. But, sources stressed, neither Reid nor Pelosi know if this strategy can win the support of their members, but they are attempting it because it is the quickest path to passage.

As recently as last week, in the midst of lengthy discussions at the White House, a wide variety of changes were agreed upon by House and Senate negotiators. The idea, of course, was to craft a final bill to be approved by both chambers. Voters in Massachusetts have since made this approach impossible.

But if Reid and Pelosi can package those already-discussed improvements, and agree to approve them through reconciliation after the House passes the Senate bill, then there's still hope that a fiasco for the ages can be avoided.
The changes being considered track closely with the agreements House and Senate leaders made in White House meetings last week, according to a source. They include the deal with labor unions to ease the tax on high-end insurance plans, additional Medicare cuts and taxes, the elimination of a special Medicaid funding deal for Nebraska and a move to help cover the gap in seniors' prescription drug coverage. Pelosi is also working to change the Senate provision that sets up state insurance exchanges. The House prefers a single, national exchange.
Discussions, a Pelosi spokesperson said, "are ongoing ... but no final decisions have been made."

Once more with feeling: Pass. The. Damn. Bill.

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