Budget Plan Wins OK From Congress, Sets Up Action on Health Reform
On Wednesday, Congress passed a $3.5 trillion fiscal year 2010 budget resolution (S Con Res 13) that includes budget reconciliation as an option for passing health reform legislation, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The House voted 233-193, with no Republican support and 17 Democrats voting against the measure, to approve the resolution.
The Senate then voted 53-43, with four Democrats voting against the measure (Bendavid/Hitt, Wall Street Journal, 4/30).
Under the resolution, congressional committees with jurisdiction over health care would have until Oct. 15 to pass health care reform legislation. If no measure is passed, health care overhaul legislation could be passed using reconciliation (Clarke, CQ Today, 4/29).
Senate Budget Committee Chair Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said that he will work to avoid the use of reconciliation, adding that he thought it was unlikely it will be used to advance health care reform legislation (Dennis, Roll Call, 4/29).
The Senate committees with health care jurisdiction plan to produce a health care reform measure in June, with congressional leaders looking for votes on the legislation to occur before the August recess (CQ Today, 4/29).
Any health care reform legislation must be deficit-neutral, although the resolution allows for payment over 11 years, according to the New York Times (Hulse, New York Times, 4/30).
Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) has promised to deliver a bipartisan health care reform bill before the Oct. 15 deadline, the Washington Post reports.
However, Baucus efforts could face significant hurdles, with many Senate Republicans opposed to health care reform that includes a public plan option to compete with private insurers and many Senate Democrats demanding that such an option be included in any overhaul legislation.
In addition, fiscally conservative Democrats want the Obama administration to guarantee that health care reform will reduce health care spending and not only expand coverage.
According to Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.), a leader of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition, the administration's challenge is "to convince enough of us that their proposal will actually contain costs over the long term" (Montgomery, Washington Post, 4/30).
Next week, Obama is scheduled to release a more detailed budget proposal (Wall Street Journal, 4/30).
Although the adoption of the resolution was "a first step" toward Obama's goal of universal health coverage, the budget plan does not provide specifics on how to fund the president's coverage plans, which are expected to cost more than $1 trillion over 10 years (Taylor, AP/Boston Globe, 4/30).
Although Democrats have said they want to work with Republicans on drafting bipartisan health care reform legislation, the "threat of reconciliation mocks" such negotiations at a time when "harmony" between the parties is "becoming more elusive," Post columnist George Will writes.
Will notes that President Thomas Jefferson once said, "'Great innovations should not be forced on slender majorities.'" Will writes, "Revamping health care ... qualifies as a great innovation."
Will continues, "This is especially so because the administration and its allies, without being candid about what is afoot, are trying to put the nation on a glide path to a 'single-payer' -- entirely government-run -- system" (Will, Washington Post, 4/30).
Broadcast CoverageOn Thursday, NPR's "Morning Edition" reported on congressional approval of the budget plan and reconciliation instructions. The segment features comments from House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), Pelosi and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) (Cornish, "Morning Edition," NPR, 4/30). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.