Reid Takes Step To Move Forward With Debate of Health Care Reform Bill
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday took the first step toward launching a floor debate on health reform by placing the House bill (HR 3962) on the official Senate calendar, Roll Call reports (Pierce , Roll Call, 11/10).
By filing a motion to introduce the bill on Nov. 16, Reid could introduce a motion to proceed to debate the bill as early as next Tuesday (Rushing, "Blog Briefing Room," The Hill, 11/10).
Reid must gather 60 votes on the motion to proceed to debate to avoid an expected Republican filibuster. If Reid is able to overcome the potential filibuster, he likely will offer the Senate version of reform legislation as a substitute amendment (Pierce , Roll Call, 11/10).
Reid has not yet released a final Senate bill because he is waiting for the Congressional Budget Office to deliver a cost analysis of the draft bill. When Reid was asked on Tuesday if he would be able to present his bill to the floor next week and complete work on it by the Christmas holiday recess, he said, "Yes and yes," according to the New York Times (Herszenhorn, New York Times, 11/11).
However, Senate aides said that floor debate could be delayed because Reid might seek to revise his bill after reviewing CBO's preliminary scores, which are expected by the end of this week. Reid has said that he would not deliver the Senate bill for debate without a formal CBO score, Roll Call reports (Pierce , Roll Call, 11/10).
Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) said that Reid is workingÂ to gather votes and reiterated that Democrats will not proceed without ensuring that they have those votes (Friedman/Edney , CongressDaily, 11/10).
The Times notes that Senate Democrats remain divided over certain proposals in Reid's bill, particularly a public health insurance plan option (New York Times, 11/11).
Durbin also said that senators would not be expected to work during Thanksgiving week, adding that if a vote cannot be scheduled before then, it would be rescheduled after the holiday (Pierce , Roll Call, 11/10).
Carper, Others Working on Public Option 'Plan B'
Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and a group of other senators are working on a "Plan B" to Reid's proposal for a public option that would allow states to opt out, according to a Democratic aide familiar with the discussions, CongressDaily reports. Carper confirmed that the alternative plan is in the works but declined to name the other senators with whom he is working.
Under Carper's plan -- which would be introduced if Reid is unable to gather 60 votes for cloture -- states would be allowed to create not-for-profit boards to offer insurance coverage if private insurers in the state fail to provide affordable coverage. The aide said the insurance plan would be administered by the government but would be transferred to a non-government entity that likely would be appointed by the president.
CongressDaily notes that the plan is similar in design to the "trigger" clause introduced by Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), for which some moderate Democrats also have been advocating. "That kind of approach might come close to hitting a sweet spot for a lot of people," Carper acknowledged, adding that it "addresses concerns about government-owned, government-run."
Carper said he hoped to complete work on the plan by next week and suggested that it could be added to Reid's bill before it advances to the floor or offered as an amendment.
The Democratic aide said that Reid "is fully appraised" about the alternative plan and that the group had been "encouraged to flesh it out." The aide also noted that work on the plan had been kept private to avoid potential attacks from liberal activists who could jeopardize its chances of drawing support from the full Democratic caucus (Friedman/Edney , CongressDaily, 11/10).
Senate Democratic Women Unite To Block Stupak Amendment
Several female Democratic senators on Tuesday announced an alliance to block an amendment on abortion funding in the House bill from being added to the Senate bill, Roll Call reports (Bendery, Roll Call, 11/10).
The amendment, which was introduced by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), would explicitly bar the public option from covering abortion services. In addition, the amendment would prohibit people who receive subsidies from purchasing private plans that cover such services (California Healthline, 11/9).
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said the group would "work together to ensure that the decades-long compromise of no federal funds for abortion is what is in the Senate bill, and we will fight against any amendment that prevents women from using their own private funds for their reproductive health care." Boxer also added that she believes there are adequate votes in the chamber to block the amendment (Bendery, Roll Call, 11/10). The group also includes Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.).
Reid said he believed that an agreement could be reached between people on both sides of the abortion debate (New York Times, 11/11).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.