We’ve got to finish the job on health care. We’ve got to finish the job on financial regulatory reform. We’ve got to finish the job, even though it’s hard.
– President Obama speaking to Senate Democrats at their annual issues retreat on Wednesday
There seems to be some momentum growing for taking the path forward where the House would pass the Senate bill and both chambers would pass a package of “fixes” which the Senate would process through budget reconciliation (requiring only 51 votes for passage). Several senators made public comments in support of the reconciliation option this week.
The House is not likely to immediately vote to pass the Senate bill. Progressive members would first like to see the Senate at least start to work on, and maybe pass, a reconciliation bill before the House passes the Senate reform bill. Also, there are still concerns that some changes can’t be accomplished through reconciliation. Read more in this Health Affairs blog post from Tim Jost.
Because the language which allows for budget reconciliation was passed with the FY2010 budget bills, once Congress starts passing FY2011 budget bills, as early as April, the budget reconciliation language would expire. It’s uncertain whether there would be the votes to put reconciliation language in the FY2011 bills. As such, there is now talk of spring as a deadline for finishing health care reform (the one major caveat being that budget bills are often passed late, if at all, in an election year).
Could the Public Option make a comeback?
Some progressive democrats in the House see reconciliation as an opportunity to make substantive changes to the bill – including bringing back the public option. Representatives Jared Polis (CO-2) and Chellie Pingree (ME-1) are circulating a “Dear Colleague” letter in the House, urging Senate majority leader Harry Reid to consider including the public option:
A December New York Times poll shows that, despite the attacks of recent months, the American public supports the public option 59% to 29%. And a recent Research 2000 poll found 82% of people who supported President Obama in 2008 and Scott Brown for Senate last week also support the public option. Only 32% of this key constituency is in favor of the current Senate bill – with more saying it “doesn’t go far enough” rather than it “goes too far.”
Passing smaller bills
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has stated that the House will work on passing smaller bills related to health care reform in the immediate future – starting with a vote as early as next week on a partial repeal of the health insurance industry’s antitrust exemption.
For additional resources on health care reform, visit the Abundant Life health care page.