Health Reform Unlikely To Be Complete by August Deadline
As delays on health care reform legislation continue in the Senate, lawmakers are indicating that it is unlikely a bill will be completed by the self-imposed August deadline, the AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
Continuing negotiations over details of the legislation, contradictory proposals in competing bills and the launch of Senate hearings for Supreme Court Justice nominee Sonia Sotomayor all are contributing to the delays, according to the AP/Journal-Constitution (Elliott, AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 7/12).
According to Politico, "without a deal by August, the ripple effects could start to endanger the prospects of health care reform this year" particularly because "the closer it gets to the 2010 midterm elections, the harder it will be to get members to make the tough political decisions needed to vote on a bill."
Some lawmakers are optimistic that the deadline can still be met (Budoff Brown, Politico, 7/12). On Friday, Vice President Biden said, "We're going to have a bill out of both the House and the Senate by the recess" (CongressDaily, 7/10).
Meanwhile, President Obama on Friday said that although meeting the deadline is not "do-or-die, â¦ I really want to get it done by the August recess" (Norman, CQ HealthBeat, 7/10).
Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) said, "It is an ambitious goal, but it is doable," adding that it may require senators to work longer hours and through the weekends (Politico, 7/12).
However, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) on Sunday said, "There is no chance that it's going to be done by August." Kyl said, "President Obama was right about one thing: He said if it's not done quickly, it won't be done at all" because "the longer it hangs out there, the more the American people are skeptical, anxious and even in opposition to it" (AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 7/12).
Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) said he thinks it is "highly unlikely" that lawmakers will meet the deadline "since the Finance Committee doesn't even have a bill drafted yet and we're in the middle of the Sotomayor hearings for this week and then we're going to be debating her nomination for a week before we adjourn for the office recess."
Senate Budget Committee Chair Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, said, "I think we'll get it through the Senate Finance Committee by the August recess and I think that's a realistic goal." He said, "There really is plenty of time. Congress is going to be in session until Christmas Eve" (Yager, The Hill, 7/13).
Health care expert Ken Thorpe of the Partnership To Fight Chronic Disease said, "The good news is that everybody's still at the table," but "the timeline is tough" (Hall, USA Today, 7/13).
According to some lawmakers, the absence of Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chair Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) -- who is undergoing treatment for brain cancer -- is contributing to the delays in the Senate.
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), a member of the HELP Committee, said, "Obviously, if Kennedy were here, the whole process would be further along" because he would "be working his magic. He has a way of getting everybody on board" (Wangsness/Milligan, Boston Globe, 7/11).
According to Darrell West of the Brookings Institution, "The White House really needs to show leadership, and I think if they did that, many Democrats would follow."
Obama, who is giving speeches this week on health reform in Michigan and New York, said it is his job "to explain to the American people why this is so important and give them confidence that we can do better than we're doing right now" (USA Today, 7/13).
According to the president, "This is not simply a Democratic versus Republican issue. This is a House verses Senate issue. This is different committees that have different priorities" (CQ HealthBeat, 7/10).
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that the reform bill "needs to be owned by the House and the Senate," adding that the White House would not micromanage the process (USA Today, 7/13).
PBS' "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" on Friday featured a discussion with Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus and New York Times columnist David Brooks about the prospects for health care reform ("NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," PBS, 7/10).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.