Senate Finance Panel Delays Action on Reform Bill To Address Cost
On Wednesday, Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said that the panel will delay a mark up of its health reform legislation possibly until after the July 4 recess, Roll Call reports (Drucker, Roll Call, 6/18).
The committee originally was scheduled to release details of its plan this week with mark ups scheduled to begin on June 23.
However, Finance Committee members are discussing ways to reduce the cost of the legislation after a preliminary scoring by the Congressional Budget Office found that the plan would cost $1.6 trillion over 10 years.
Committee Democrats want to reduce the price tag to less than $1 trillion over a decade (Rubin, CQ Today, 6/17).
Senate Budget Committee Chair and Finance Committee member Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said that following the release of the CBO estimate, "there was an understanding ... that we've got to slow down," adding that given the score, "we need more time to evaluate options and alternatives" (Budoff Brown/Isenstadt, Politico, 6/17).
According to Conrad, lawmakers are considering stricter limits on federal subsidies to purchase health insurance and greater levies on businesses that do not offer health coverage to employees (Montgomery, Washington Post, 6/18).
Baucus said, "These numbers are not still all in yet, and we have to wait until we get them, some of these numbers, as senators make up their minds on policy" (Rubin, CQ Today, 6/17). He added, "We're going to have a mark up when we're ready, but we're not yet ready" (Roll Call, 6/18).
The Senate Finance Committee delay and debate in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee as the panel began marking up its reform legislation yesterday "threaten the ambitious schedule" for approving health care reform that President Obama and congressional leaders have proposed, The Hill reports.
Obama and congressional leaders want to pass health reform legislation in both chambers by the end of July, have conference negotiations through the summer and have the final bill on Obama's desk by mid-October (Bolton/Young, The Hill, 6/17).
Republicans have argued that the health care overhaul has been too rushed and are welcoming the delay by the Senate Finance Committee.
HELP Committee ranking member Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) suggested that panel should "take the time ... to try and work out the contentious issues, like we're doing in the Finance Committee" (Armstrong , CQ Today, 6/17).
Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) said, "Delay is not a bad thing if you are striving for some kind of bipartisan agreement" (Washington Post, 6/18).
Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said, "I think that (Baucus) appreciates that we're moving this very complicated, difficult subject along in a very fast pace and that everybody has been asking for a little more time," adding that he does not believe "we ever could have (reached bipartisan consensus) under the time frame that he originally laid out" (Roll Call, 6/18).
However, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said, "The health of our citizens and our economy are at stake, and neither will be able to recover if we wait" (Levey, Los Angeles Times, 6/18).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.