Health Care Measures Could Come in Stimulus Package
Democrats in the House and Senate "are intent on advancing economic-stimulus legislation this year, amid a worsening economic picture and concern among voters," and the package proposed by Democrats might include provisions related to health care, the Wall Street Journal reports (Lueck, Wall Street Journal, 1/12).
House and Senate Democratic aides last week met to begin discussions on the contents of an economic-stimulus proposal, and the Joint Economic Committee on Wednesday will meet to discuss the issue.
Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) expects to hold hearings when lawmakers return. Congress and the White House likely will unveil the proposals within the next two weeks (Baker, Washington Post, 1/14).
Democrats' proposals for the package likely would include increased federal funding for Medicaid and higher food-stamp payments, among other provisions. However, these are "all ideas likely to prompt Republican opposition," and compromise with the White House is "crucial if the bill is to pass," according to the Journal.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in a letter sent to President Bush on Friday said that the economic-stimulus proposals should be "timely, targeted and temporary" and asked for a meeting to discuss the issue, adding, "We want to work with you and the Republican leadership of the Congress to immediately develop a legislative plan based upon these principles so it can be passed and implemented into law without delay" (Wall Street Journal, 1/12).
White House spokesperson Tony Fratto said that Bush has not decided whether an economic-stimulus package is necessary. Fratto said, "If an economic growth package is something the president decides to do, I don't see any reason why it would need to be a partisan battle. If fact, there's no reason it can't be a bipartisan effort."
According to the Washington Post, Fratto's "optimism ... belies the political history of the past year," with Bush vetoing seven bills in 2007 (Washington Post, 1/14). In addition, the passage of any legislative package in 2008 "will be in the shadow of November's election," the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports (Abrams, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 1/14).
House Financial Services Committee Chair Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who is helping to craft the package, said that Democrats and the White House would need to reach a broad agreement on a compromise by early February and pass it by the end of February (Washington Post, 1/14).