Monday, July 6, 2009
Senate Democratic leaders’ hopes of approving health care reform before adjourning for the August recess appear all but dead, with the prospect of meeting President Barack Obama’s demand for a bill on his desk by Oct. 15 looking increasingly difficult.
Logistical hurdles in the Senate, while significant, are only part of the problem. A major political battle looms over the key components of health care reform — particularly over the role of the federal government — that could stall Democrats even after they gained a filibuster-proof majority with the addition of Sen.-elect Al Franken (D-Minn.).
Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), managing the health care bill in the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, signaled late last week that Democratic leaders do not expect a bill to clear the Senate in the next five weeks. Rather, Dodd indicated, the goal is to complete the tricky merger of the HELP and Finance Committee bills, with the floor fracas over a final bill put off until after Labor Day....
Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) is attempting to draft a bill that costs less than $1 trillion, is deficit neutral and can garner significant bipartisan support. The HELP bill has been drafted to satisfy liberal reform goals, including a robust government-run insurance option Republicans will never accept.
HELP announced last week that its legislation would cost approximately $611 billion over 10 years. But that is not a deficit-neutral figure, and the score did not include the cost of expanding Medicare, projected by some to be worth another $400 billion in additional spending.
Meanwhile, political difficulties abound in Obama’s push to overhaul the nation’s $2.3 trillion health care system this year. ...