Passage of Health Care Reform Bill Comes Down to Individual Senators
Sens. Jay Rockefeller (W.Va.) and Ron Wyden (Ore.) have refrained from pledging their support for the Senate Finance Committee's health reform bill, which is scheduled for a vote later this week, the Washington Post reports. Â Both senators are members of the committee.
In an interview on Sunday, Wyden said, "More needs to be done to hold insurance companies accountable, to hold premiums down for the American people," adding that he would like to "continue these discussions."
Meanwhile, Rockefeller is in favor of a public option, which the Finance Committee's bill forsakes in favor of a network of health insurance cooperatives. Rockefeller has said he will attempt to add a public option on the Senate floor or in negotiations with the House, the Post reports.
The 'Power' of Senate Democrats
With 13 Democrats and 10 Republicans on the Finance panel, the defection of two liberals could cause the bill to fail in committee, although that is "unlikely," according to the Post. However, the possibility of such a scenario highlights "the power every Senate Democrat -- and perhaps a few Republicans -- holds going forward."
To avoid a filibuster, the Obama administration must ensure that every Democrat and independent in the Senate supports the reform bill.
According to the Post, President Obama has "assiduously courted" Democrats and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), the one Republican considered most likely to vote for the bill. The Post reports that Obama has held individual meetings with Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and speaks with senators daily via telephone (Connolly, Washington Post, 10/5).
The Importance of Senate Moderates
Senate Democratic leaders, seeking to make certain that the bill receives the necessary 60 votes, have been working to ensure that the final legislation is something that moderate Senate Democrats can support and are placing pressure on moderates to support a bill that includes a public option, Roll Call reports. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Democratic Conference Vice Chair Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) recently have indicated that state-specific or senator-specific provisions might be added to the legislation in order to get centrist support.
"We're going to have lots of silver bullets," Reid said, adding, "It's not going to be just one thing. ... We'll have to work with lots of individual senators to get this done" (Drucker/Pierce, Roll Call, 10/5).
Meanwhile, President Obama has been courting a number of moderate Democrats, and some administration officials -- including Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag and Director of the White House Office of Health Reform Director Nancy-Ann DeParle -- have been roaming the halls of the Capitol talking with senators (Washington Post, 10/5).
Reid vs. Baucus Over a Public Option
As the Senate Finance Committee prepares to vote on health reform legislation, committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Reid are in disagreement over the inclusion of a public plan in the final legislation, The Hill reports. Baucus has continuously said that a public option does not have enough support to pass the Senate.
On Thursday, Reid indicated that there will be a public plan option in the final Senate bill. "We are going to have a public option before this bill goes to the president's desk," Reid said, adding that "the public option is so vitally important to create a level playing field and prevent the insurance companies from taking advantage of us" (Rushing, The Hill, 10/5).
Although inclusion of a public plan appears imminent, it is still unclear what form such a plan would take. Democratic leadership must now develop a compromise that would be palatable to centrist Democrats yet strong enough for liberals who want a robust public option.
There are now several different possibilities as to what form a public plan could take, including a proposal by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) that would direct federal funds to state-based public plans.Another potential compromise is an amendment by Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) that would allow states to decide whether to use federal money to establish co-ops, regional or state-based public plans, or buy into state-employee insurance plans (Young, The Hill, 10/5). 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.