House Democrats Keep Up Work on Bargaining Position for Reform Bill
On Wednesday, House Democratic leaders convened for a private meeting to discuss the elements they hope to maintain in a final health reform bill, Roll Call reports.
House and Senate leaders recently began informal talks on merging the chambers' two competing bills (HR 3962, HR 3590) (Dennis, Roll Call, 1/6). According to CQ Today, the House leadership's goal this week is "to establish a bargaining position" on the legislation before the Senate does so.
The House reconvenes next week, while the Senate does not return to session until Jan. 20.
Before heading into a scheduled meeting with President Obama at the White House, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other chamber leaders discussed some of the major differences between the two bills and the main provisions that they would like to be included in the final legislation (Wayne, CQ Today, 1/6).
Following the House meeting, Pelosi said, "We have selected a few items that we want to take primary responsibility for" (Edney/House, CongressDaily, 1/6). She added that they were trying to "narrow down the issues and figure out what the parameters of the discussion [with the Senate] are."
Although Pelosi declined to provide specific details, she said the main issues the House leadership would like to see addressed in a final reform bill are "[a]ccountability of the insurance industry, affordability for the middle class and access to quality health care for all Americans."
Pelosi noted that three committee chairs -- Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) of the Ways and Means Committee, and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) of the Education and Labor Committee -- are taking responsibility for reconciling those issues in the two bills, while other issues will be assigned to their staffs (CQ Today, 1/6).
According to Roll Call, House Democrats are hopeful that more generous subsidies for middle-income U.S. residents to obtain health insurance and a national health insurance exchange in the House bill will survive the informal talks with the Senate leadership (Roll Call, 1/6).
House Democrats also are seeking to include higher taxes on high-income earners, in place of an excise tax on high-priced health insurance policies in the Senate bill, and a repeal of the antitrust exemption for health insurers (CQ Today, 1/6).
'We're Very Close' to Deal, Pelosi Says
Emerging from the two-hour meeting with Obama on Wednesday, Pelosi said the final bill is nearing completion, but she declined to divulge a potential timeline for the legislation to move to the floor, Roll Call reports.Pelosi said, "I think we're very close to reconciliation, respectful of the challenges -- policy and otherwise -- in the House and in the Senate." When asked if the bill could be passed by the end of this month, she said, "It's possible" (Koffler, Roll Call, 1/6). 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.