Republican Legislators Voicing Concerns on Aspects of Reform Plan
On Thursday, a number of congressional Republicans expressed opposition and mounting frustration with the Obama administration and Democrats about the inclusion of a public plan option in health reform legislation, Politico reports (Budoff Brown, Politico, 6/4).
On Wednesday, President Obama sent a letter to two Senate Democrats stating that he strongly supports establishing a "play-or-pay" employer mandate and a public plan, a proposal many Republicans consider a deal-breaker because they insist it will eliminate competition (Young, The Hill, 6/4).
Senate Finance Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said that Obama's letter "wasn't helpful" in gathering bipartisan support for the bill.
On CNBC Thursday, Senate Budget Committee ranking member Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) said, "We were making great progress [on health care reform] up until yesterday," adding that Obama "laid down a fairly significant partisan marker when he said the proposal has to have a public plan" (Werner, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 6/5).
Grassley said, "Our caucus is very much against [a public plan]. It's kind of a litmus test" (Drucker, Roll Call, 6/4). He added that it is the "same thing (with) 'play or pay'" (The Hill, 6/4).
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) suggested that those proposing a public option are "disguis[ing] their intentions" and know that a public plan will "really lead to government-run health care being the one and only option" (Herszenhorn, "The Caucus," New York Times, 6/4).
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said that "we in the minority â¦ think that the goal is to defeat the public plan option at all costs" because it would result in a single-payer system (Norman, CQ HealthBeat, 6/4).
After a closed-door, bipartisan Senate Finance Committee meeting on health reform, committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) told reporters that "we are really working together on a bipartisan basis" (The Hill, 6/4).
Baucus predicted that "a bill that passes the Senate will have some version of a public option" (Haberkorn, Washington Times, 6/5). He said, "If there is a public plan, we have to make sure it does not set prices, there really is competition and the government's thumb is very, very light" (Pear/Harwood, New York Times, 6/5).
Grassley said, "It's just very, very difficult but I suppose that somewhere out there there's something that's politically realistic that's not a public option that satisfies Republicans and Democrats but isn't a government-run system" (The Hill, 6/4). He noted that he is willing to "consider compromises" but predicted that no more than two to three other Republicans would consider it, adding, "you can't say no to compromise until you see what the compromise is" (CQ HealthBeat, 6/4).
After the meeting, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee ranking member Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) said, "I think we've been surprised with the amount of agreement" (Roll Call, 6/4).
Grassley told the New York Times/CNBC, "I share the confidence that we're going to get it done because the people of this country expect us to get it done" (New York Times, 6/5).
Baucus said that he intends to release a chair's mark on health care reform legislation during the week of June 15 and will have mark ups the last week of June.
In addition, House Ways and Means Committee Chair Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) on Thursday said that he expects House health care leaders to release legislation early next week (Edney, CongressDaily, 6/5).
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said that senators should expect "a very long, hard work period in July," with roll call votes five days per week, every week. He said, "We cannot complete this most important legislation by working just Tuesday through Thursday" (New York Times, 6/5).
Meanwhile, Senate Republicans are calling for the process to be slowed because of the lack of details and cost estimates available.Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said, "[It's] almost impossible to do a really good job in the time frame they are talking about" (Politico, 6/4). Baucus said he hopes to have more details by next week (CongressDaily, 6/5). 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.