Democrats Trudge on With Reform, Concerns About Deficit Linger
The contentious protests taking place at health reform town-hall meetings have not deterred Democrats from pursuing health care reform but could lead them to scale back proposed legislation, CQ Today reports.
During the recess, congressional staffers are working on the legislation and Democratic leaders are helping members respond to criticism and counter false claims.
However, an unnamed senior official at a pro-reform advocacy group said that unless proponents of health reform more forcefully combat the protests with their own demonstrations of support, Democrats might be forced to make concessions in the legislation (Wayne, CQ Today, 8/13).
CQ Today reports that a majority of one dozen House Democrats interviewed indicated that the "noisy opposition has only firmed up" their determination to pass reform legislation this year (Epstein, CQ Today, 8/13).
According to CQ Today, the protests could provide "additional leverage" for the bipartisan bill being drafted by the Senate Finance Committee, which is expected not to include a public plan option.
However, House Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) said on Thursday that she knows of 60 House Democrats who continue to be opposed to any legislation that does not include a "robust" public plan (Wayne, CQ Today, 8/13).
Deficit, Spending Remain Issues
One issue that could ultimately decide the fate of health care reform legislation is its ability to reduce health care spending and diminish the national deficit, the Washington Post reports.
A recent Quinnipiac University poll found that the majority of U.S. voters believe that the overhaul should be abandoned if it "significantly" adds to the budget deficit, but Democrats have pledged that reform will be fully funded.
According to the Post, a bill that controls Medicare and Medicaid spending, which along with Social Security is the primary cause of the federal deficit, could "fundamentally alter the federal budget outlook," allow the Obama administration to pursue other priorities and give Democrats a "reputation for fiscal responsibility" (Montgomery, Washington Post, 8/13).
Finding Funding Is a Difficult Task
Funding health reform legislation is proving to be difficult because House Democrats are having difficulty devising methods of creating a large enough revenue source to fund their bill (HR 3200), CongressDaily reports.
After members of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition derailed a proposed surtax on U.S. residents earning more than $350,000 a year, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that the surtax should be adjusted to apply only to families whose incomes are more than $1 million annually and individuals whose incomes are more than $500,000 annually.
The surtax would be 7% on those individuals and families in order to replace the $544 billion that the original surtax was expected to raise, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.
The Internal Revenue Service estimated that 0.3% of tax filers, fewer than 500,000 households, are above Pelosi's proposed threshold.
Instead, Pelosi is seeking to reduce the original 5.4% surtax on those individuals and families.According to CongressDaily, that means that lawmakers likely will need to consider additional revenue sources, such as a tax on costly insurance policies -- a proposal that is unpopular with most unions (Cohn, CongressDaily, 8/6). 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.