Vote on Health Care Overhaul Set for Today in Senate Finance Panel
Today, the Senate Finance Committee will hold its highly anticipated vote on its version of health reform legislation following a hearing that is "expected to underscore the deep partisan divisions" that have surfaced over the previous five months of debate, the Washington Post reports (Murray/Montgomery, Washington Post, 10/13).
According to The Hill, committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) needs 12 votes to ensure the bill progresses out of committee. With 13 Democrats on the panel, it is likely Baucus will get the votes to pass the bill.
However, at least two Democratic members -- Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) -- have publicly stated opposition to some portions of the bill. Both have declined to say how they will vote (Young, The Hill, 10/12).
Another Democrat, Sen. Blanche Lincoln (Ark.), aligned with Republicans against some of the bill's proposals during its markup, but many of her concerns appear to have been addressed.
According to CQ Today, it is unlikely that the three Democrats will vote with the committee's Republicans -- who have roundly rejected the bill -- to halt its progress (Armstrong, CQ Today, 10/9).
Meanwhile, Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) -- the only Republican on the panel who has shown any support for the overall bill despite having some reservations with it -- also has opted not to disclose whether she will vote for it on Tuesday (Haberkorn, Washington Times, 10/13).
Last week, Snowe called the latest Congressional Budget Office cost analysis of the bill "promising," an indication that she increasingly has become comfortable with the bill, CQ Today reports. Baucus has spent months wooing several of his panel's Republicans, particularly Snowe, "whose support would allow him to claim bipartisan backing" for the bill, according to CQ Today (CQ Today, 10/9).
In an interview on MSNBC Monday, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) expressed confidence that Democrats on the committee unanimously would support the bill, adding, "I am very hopeful and very optimistic that Olympia will as well" (Sanchez, CongressDaily, 10/12).
After the Vote
Democrats are confident the Finance Committee will pass its health reform bill.
In fact, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Baucus and Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) -- who helped shepherd the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee's health reform bill (S 1679) through committee -- already have scheduled a meeting at Reid's office this afternoon to discuss merging the two bills (Washington Post, 10/13).
Senate leaders already have begun work on the merger (The Hill, 10/12).
According to the Post, the lawmakers are expected to revive several proposals that were rejected during the bills' development and markup, including a new approach to creating a government-administered public insurance plan (Washington Post, 10/13).
The proposal, which Finance Committee member Tom Carper (D-Del.) suggested as an alternative to the public option and a network of not-for-profit health insurance cooperatives, would give state officials the option of creating a state-based public insurance plan.
Last week, Carper's proposal began gaining traction among some influential centrist Democrats in the Senate (California Healthline, 10/7).
However, the Post reports that Carper remained noncommittal to a plan by other Democrats that builds on his proposal, which would create a national public plan that states could join (Washington Post, 10/13).
Prospects for Co-Ops Recede
The prospect of co-ops, which the Finance Committee bill included instead of a public option, appear to be falling out of favor with several Democratic senators, The Hill reports.
The new CBO score of the bill delivered "a fatal blow" when the agency estimated that co-ops would have "very little effect" on increasing coverage for U.S. residents or on controlling health care costs because "they seem unlikely to establish a significant market presence in many areas of the country or to noticeably affect federal subsidy payments."
Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) "pounced" on the report's suggestion to push for the inclusion of the public option or Carper's proposal, The Hill reports.Meanwhile, questions have emerged regarding whether Reid will include or reject the co-ops in a final merged bill (Bolton, The Hill, 10/11). According to the Post, Reid has expressed reluctance to produce a bill that would create further divisions among Democrats (Washington Post, 10/13). 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.