Daschle Proposes Stimulus Bill Without Insurance Measure
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) plans this week to introduce a "slimmed-down version" of the Senate Democrats' economic stimulus bill that will not include a provision in the original bill to help unemployed workers purchase health insurance, the Wall Street Journal reports (Murray, Wall Street Journal, 1/23). The proposal would include "money to help the states cope with rising costs in Medicaid." It would also include a number of provisions targeted at unemployed workers and businesses. Providing health insurance to the unemployed "more than any other issue" led to the "stalemate" between competing Republican and Democratic economic stimulus proposals before Congress recessed last month, the Times reports (Stevenson, New York Times, 1/23). Last fall, Senate Democrats proposed a $73 billion bill, which Republicans blocked, that would have provided $12.3 billion to help unemployed workers purchase health insurance through COBRA. COBRA, the 1986 Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, allows unemployed workers to retain health coverage under their former employers' insurance plans by paying 102% of the premiums (California Healthline, 11/15/01). The plan would "put aside the divisive question" of health insurance in order to reach an agreement with Republicans, the Times reports. He said that his "nonpartisan, common-sense approach" could help "break the impasse" and urged Republicans to back the new bill (New York Times, 1/23). Daschle may introduce the legislation as early as today (Earle/Fulton, CongressDaily/AM, 1/23). He said he "aims to pass the package as early as" next Tuesday, when President Bush delivers the State of the Union address (Wall Street Journal, 1/23).
Daschle met with Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) yesterday to discuss the new economic stimulus proposal. Lott said that Daschle's plan could "break the logjam" but added that he would also ask for a Senate vote on Republican-sponsored economic stimulus legislation that the House passed last month (New York Times, 1/23). That bill would provide an individual tax credit to cover 60% of the cost of private health insurance for unemployed workers. It also included tax provisions targeted at businesses and individuals (California Healthline, 12/20/01). Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) agreed with Lott, saying that he favored a Senate vote on the House GOP bill before lawmakers considered Daschle's new plan (Baltimore Sun, 1/23). The New York Times reports that Republicans have "all but rejected the offer" from Daschle but still "left open the possibility" that they could support the bill if their legislation fails (New York Times, 1/23).