Federal Healthcare Update

October 14, 2009

Pardon Our Dust

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By Mona Mohib
Yesterday, the Senate Finance Committee became the fifth and final Congressional Committee to approve a health care reform bill. Passing the Committee 14-9, every Democrat plus Republican Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) voted for the bill. For Chairman Baucus (D-MT), gaining Sen. Snowe’s vote was a big win, but equally important was his ability to hold the Democrats together for this vote. Senators John Rockefeller (D-WV), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) all expressed concerns with the bill during its consideration, and none of them had stated definitively how they would vote on the bill until the final moments.
Now that the bill is out of Committee, the long process of merging the Finance bill with the HELP Committee bill can begin in earnest. The challenge will be to satisfy liberal Democrats in the Senate, some of whom have expressed dissatisfaction with the bill, with more conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans, most notably Sen. Snowe. Highlighting her ability to change her mind, Sen. Snowe stated during the Finance Committee proceedings yesterday, “My vote today is my vote today. It doesn’t forecast what my vote will be tomorrow.” Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and the other Senators working on the merge will have to strike the right balance between the HELP Committee bill and Finance Committee bill to get the 60 votes they need on the Senate floor.
In the House, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) stated this week that a floor vote on health care will not occur until the first week of November. Although the original House schedule called for the Congressmen to return home for recess on the 30th of October, Democratic leadership is now predicting that the House will remain in session for at least half of December. Speaker Pelosi, Rep. Hoyer, and other Democratic leaders are still working to combine the three bills passed in the House this year. Speaker Pelosi has asked the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to score at least three different proposals for creating a public option, with the hope that at least one of them will be affordable and will garner 218 votes.