Gird your loins.
The following February 17 CQ Online piece (available online only by subscription – posted here on page 2), states Obama may release a new healthcare bill this weekend. It will be a compilation of the House and Senate versions with Obama’s own flavoring added.
No mention of abortion, but you know it’s in there.
I’ve been hearing the term “tone deaf” a lot the past several days to describe Democrats still stuck on socialized healthcare and wild spending. Here’s another example. These people just don’t get it.
Or they do get it but have a bigger, more important agenda at stake, worth losing popularity and congressional seats over. Scary….
White House could reveal health care bill this weekend
The White House is preparing to release what it hopes will be the final version of health care overhaul legislation as early as Feb. 21, according to a lobbyist who has spoken to officials involved.
“That’s going to be the WH version of the deal between House and Senate leaders on what they think the bill should look like,” said John Rother, director of policy for the AARP. The influential organization, which represents people age 50 and older, is one of several lobbying groups that have been closely involved in negotiations on the bill.
“That will in effect be the starting point for the conference on the 25th,” Rother said, referring to the bipartisan health care summit that President Obama intends to hold on Feb. 25 with congressional leaders.
A union official familiar with the administration’s plans also said the bill will likely be released Feb. 21.
Asked about the timing of the bill, an Obama administration aide said, “We are still working out the details but will post it in plenty of time for people to review it.”
A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, would not confirm the proposal’s release date and referred queries to the WH.
Top House Democrats involved with negotiations with the Senate said Wednesday that they are close to a deal and that the summit will give Republicans a chance to participate before they move forward.
“The House and the Senate have been very close to completing an agreement, but the president wanted to take this opportunity to circle back with our Republican colleagues and give them one more chance,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-MD. He serves as assistant to the Speaker and has been a regular at leadership negotiations on a health care package. He also heads the House Democrats’ campaign committee.
It seems unlikely that the summit will usher in any new era of bipartisanship, however. Republicans have been working to set expectations and terms for the meeting, insisting that Democrats scrap their current bills and start over with new legislation.
The proposal the WH is expected to post Feb. 21 will not include a procedural path forward, said AARP’s Rother.
“It’s not going to be about the process,” he said. “It’s not going to be about reconciliation. Instead they’re going to talk about what they’d like the final bill to look like, and the congressional folks will figure out how to get there.”
Quiet effort to keep overhaul in play
Senior House and Senate Democrats have been working quietly to get a health care deal since Jan. 19, when Republican Scott Brown of MA captured a Senate seat held by Democrats for decades. His victory left Democrats with control of 59 Senate votes – 1 shy of the number needed to cut off a filibuster.
It also prompted a scramble by the WH and Democratic leaders for a new path to completing the health care overhaul.
On a conference call Wednesday, Van Hollen – along with of Connecticut and other House Democrats – strongly implied that the House and Senate had been very close to striking a deal before the MA election. Sen. , D-IA, has also acknowledged publicly that Democrats essentially had a bicameral agreement before the election.
The loss of the 60th vote in the Senate, and the refusal of any Republican in that chamber to endorse the Democrats’ bill, has necessitated a new procedural course. It also has altered the contents and structure of the pre-election deal, which included compromises on revenue-raisers.
The most likely way forward is for the House to clear the Senate’s health care bill (HR 3590) and for the Senate to pass a package of changes to it, using the filibuster-proof budget reconciliation process. That set of changes would incorporate the deals struck with the House, which would then send the new package to the WH.
Obama would first sign the original Senate bill, then the “corrections” package. The last measure signed into law would be the one that dictates the final shape of the overhaul.
Provisions kept quiet
Asked if deals on credits to help people pay for insurance coverage and a tax on high-cost insurance plans were involved, DeLauro said they were under consideration.
“Those are issues that we’re working toward,” she said.
“It would seem to me that the agreements that were being reviewed and looked at would follow the same path,” she added, while emphasizing that she had not participated in many of the meetings where provisions were being decided.
That could mean changes to at least one major revenue-raiser in the legislation, a Senate-proposed tax on “Cadillac” insurance. It would impose a non-deductible excise tax on insurance companies that offer plans costing more than $23k for a family or $8,500 for an individual. It would effectively end the tax-free status of employer-provided insurance, discouraging employers from offering expensive plans and encouraging them to shift more compensation into wages.
House Democrats largely oppose the tax, which labor unions have fought vigorously. Some moderate Senate Democrats and the WH have urged its inclusion, however, arguing that it would put downward pressure on health costs.
But if Senate Democrats use the reconciliation strategy and need only 50 votes (plus a tie-breaker from Vice President), the votes of moderates who had favored the plan may not be as critical as the need to nail down enough House Democratic votes to clear the Senate-passed bill.
According to 1 labor lobbyist who has had recent conversations with many moderate senators, Senate Democratic leaders have not briefed those lawmakers on the contents of any new package.
That may not say much about what’s emerging, however. “Unless you’re in the total inner circle, nobody knows what’s happening,” the lobbyist said.