Vote on House Health Reform Bill Expected To Come Saturday
On Wednesday, House Rules Committee Chair Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) said that she expects the chamber to hold a floor vote on its health reform legislation (HR 3962) during a rare Saturday evening session, the Washington Post reports.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said, "We are now in the final stage of moving this critical bill through the House" (Montgomery, Washington Post, 11/5). He added, "Decision time is upon us" (Alonso-Zaldivar, AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 11/5).
The announcement came after House Democrats released a manager's amendment to the chamber's health care reform bill on Tuesday, kicking off a 72-hour review period before House leaders can call the legislation to a floor vote (California Healthline, 11/4).
Slaughter said that the vote likely will occur around 6 p.m., which some members have said could conflict with the Jewish Sabbath. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) said, "My rabbi said there's a Talmudic exemption for the public option" (Soraghan/Hooper, The Hill, 11/4).
The Rules Committee is set to meet on Friday at 2 p.m. to vote on floor debate rules for the bill (CongressDaily, 11/4).
Slaughter said that she envisions three hours of debate, including a one-hour debate on abortion coverage and another one-hour debate on the House Republicans' alternative reform bill (Epstein, CQ Today, 11/4).
In an effort to honor a commitment made to Weiner for an up-or-down vote on a single-payer health insurance plan, Slaughter said that she might allow him to offer a stand-alone bill before the vote on the overall reform legislation (The Hill, 11/4).
On Wednesday, Democratic leaders "stopped short" of declaring that they had secured the 218 votes needed to pass the bill (AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 11/5).
However, they did say that they were confident of securing the necessary votes before Saturday (Washington Post, 11/5).
The House reform bill did receive a boost of support from AARP, which is scheduled to endorse the legislation today (AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 11/5).
Abortion Language Close to Finalization
House leaders must finalize language on abortion services before the Rules Committee meeting on Friday to determine the structure of debate (Hunt/House, CongressDaily, 11/4).
House Democratic leaders have struggled to secure the needed votes for the bill's passage in part because of a desire among antiabortion-rights House Democrats, led by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), to ensure that no taxpayer dollars would be used to cover abortion services.
Under the House bill, insurance plans offered through exchanges could cover abortion services, but such services would be funded only with private premiums and copayments.
The antiabortion-rights lawmakers have argued that even private premiums paid to a public insurance plan would amount to using federal funds (Washington Post, 11/5).
Slaughter said that a compromise crafted by Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-Ind.) will be "self-executed" as part of the floor debate rules (CongressDaily, 11/4).
Under the compromise, federal health officials administering a public health plan would be required to hire private contractors to handle money used for abortion services (Pear/Herszenhorn, New York Times, 11/5).
Slaughter, co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus, said, "I don't think there's any question at all that we were in perfect balance here (among) the pro-choice people and the law and the anti-choice people," adding, "But none of us really objected to the Ellsworth language. In fact, we think he did a good job" (CongressDaily, 11/4).
In a statement, Stupak said that he would continue to try blocking the reform bill "until there is satisfactory language to prevent public funding for abortion," preferably by prohibiting abortion services from being offered through any public or subsidized private plans offered on insurance exchanges (Washington Post, 11/5).
House Leaders Consider Undocumented Immigrant Provision
House leaders are still considering whether to prohibit undocumented immigrants from purchasing insurance through the exchanges, even though they would be barred from obtaining subsidies under the bill.The Obama administration supports the exclusion, but some members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and other Democrats view the provision as too severe (AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 11/5). 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.