Archive for July, 2009

(New) Senate Finance Committee Timetable for Health Care

Sen. Baucus has the month of August to complete his negotiations with Senate Republicans.  If not, the Democratic Leadership will step in and order a partisan bill to pass the Finance Committee.  These talks continue only because of Sen. Baucus’s insistence on bipartisan negotiations even as these same negotations have dragged on for months on end.

Does this mean we’ll still be seeing live reports on bi-partisan talks from CNN’s Dana Bash outside Max Baucus’s office when Congress returns in September? Don’t count on it.  Baucus has some time to work out a deal over the August break, but Democratic leaders are unlikely to allow talks with Republicans to drag on into September.

The six negotiators – Democratic Senators Baucus, Conrad, and Bingaman and Republican Senators Snowe, Grassley, and Enzi – will continue to negotiate during the August break through teleconferencing and the like.  We shall see if they can come up with a bill.

UPDATE: Baucus has promised Sept. 15th to be the deadline for these negotiations to end.  This is a week after the Senate comes back from the August recess as the Senate will be back in session on Sept. 8th, the day after Labor Day.

Also, if bipartisan negotiations fail, Reid “likely” plans to use reconciliation to pass the health care bill.  Who are the Democrats who plan to join the Republicans in a filibuster of health care reform because assuming partisan discipline, a party line vote with  60 Democratic Senators is enough to stop a filibuster.


Senate Passes Energy & Water Appropriations and the Highway Trust Fund bills

Yesterday, the Senate voted to pass the Energy and Water Appropriations bill, and today, the Senate swiftly passed the Highway Trust Fund bill, a bill to plug the deficit in the Fund used for the nation’s roads and highways.  The gas tax is supposed to fill the Fund’s coffers but lately has not been able to fully fund the Highway Trust Fund.

They are now moving on to the Agriculture Appropriations bill.

Categories: Senate Votes Tags: ,

Note to Senator Baucus: Senate Republicans are Dealing in Bad Faith

Senator Baucus should realize the Senate Republicans are dealing in bad faith on health care reform.  His “coalition of the willing” decreed, after months of negotiations, to just stop and wait until September to MAYBE decide on a health care deal.

Two of the three Senate Republicans negotiating a bipartisan deal on health care reform said they consider an agreement out of reach before the Senate goes on its August recess.That likely dashes the hopes of Democratic leaders and President Barack Obama for a deal among the so-called Gang of Six negotiators that could deliver critical momentum for the stalled health care overhaul.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Michael Enzi, R-Wyoming, dropped the bombshell news to CNN and two other reporters in Capitol hallways Wednesday night. They have spent weeks behind closed doors, trying to hammer out an agreement with their Democratic counterparts on the Senate Finance Committee but said too many issues remain unresolved, making it virtually impossible for them to sign on to a deal before the break.

Does Senator Baucus realize that he looks like an absolute fool?

It was quite obvious that the Republicans were just leading him along for the purpose of delaying health care reform. What’s stopping the Republicans from dragging these “negotiations” to October, November, or late 2016?  When does it end?

House Democrats Reach Accord on Health Care

TPM has the scoop on a health care compromise between the Blue Dogs and House Leadership.  Vote is delayed to September and there is an increased surtax exemption, but Blue Dogs made concessions towards the public option and subsidy issues.

After a week or so of canceled hearings, the Energy and Commerce Committee will continue to mark up House health care legislation this afternoon, and pass a bill by the end of the week. On substance, the exemption from penalties for small businesses that do not provide health care to workers has been raised to include small businesses with payrolls of $500,000 per year or less. Originally the bill called for the exemption to apply only to businesses with payrolls half that size.

The public option hasn’t gone away, and remains in tact. Now, though, instead of being directly tied to Medicare, the rates will be negotiated by the Health and Human Services secretary–a provision which at a glance seems similar to the public option the Senate HELP Committee endorsed. States will be able to erect health care co-operatives if they choose, but that would be in addition to the public option.

The Blue Dogs managed to pull $100 billion in savings from the bill by lowering by one percent the rate at which people living between 300 and 400 percent of the poverty level will be subsidized to buy health care in insurance exchanges–they had originally tried to eliminate that bracket entirely.

Blue Dogs will likely herald this as a major victory, but compared to their original wishlist, this seems pretty minor.

UPDATE: The liberals are not liking the reimbursement changes to the public option and have delayed a markup.  I hope this gets smoothed over soon.  The Energy and Commerce Committee health care bill still has to be merged with the other, more liberal House health care bills that are sure to be more to the liberal’s liking.

Majority Leader’s Strategy for a Merged Senate Health Care Bill, Goal of 60 Votes

Reid spokesperson Jim Manley informed people of what Reid plans to do with the soon to be merged HELP and (likely) Finance health care bills.  The Senate needs to merge those two to create one bill that the Senate will debate when they get back in September.  Manley said the Majority Leader will attempt to broker a compromise with Senators, staff members, and the White House in order to get an agreement on how to move forward.

Reid spokesman Jim Manley said the majority leader won’t be the one picking winners or losers when he attempts to merge the HELP bill with one that is being developed in the Finance Committee. Instead, Manley said, Reid will work closely with the White House, staff members and senators from the relevant committees to attempt to broker a compromise.

“It’s a natural role for him, and it’s one he’s not going to shy away from,” Manley said. He added that Republicans may be willing to pounce on Reid’s efforts, but “his only goal is to get a bill that can get the 60 votes necessary to get out of the Senate.”

The Majority Leader has his work cut out for him as the HELP and Finance bills are very different with regards to such issues as a public option and an employer mandate.  His top lieutenants, Sen. Durbin of Illinois and Sen. Schumer of New York, are on record in supporting a robust public option while Sen. Baucus and Conrad will support their plan that they hope will get bipartisan support, which as of this writing, Baucus hasn’t obtained.

The White House needs to raise their voice too as they’ve been in the background for far too long.  We know of the White House’s preferences.  What are it’s demands?

I’m Lewin It

Remember: all Republicans are trying to do is save America from socialism, okay? The fact that not only are they receiving millions of dollars from insurance companies, but now even their “expert” research is coming from the likes of United Health Care is merely a coincidence, I’m sure.

So to recap,

-Universal Health Care = Bad, socialism, government take over.
-Health Care for Profit = Good, freedom, Ronald Reagan, Jesus would want it that way.


Categories: Health Care Policy

Judiciary Committee Approves Sotomayor

The Judiciary Committee approved Sotomayor’s confirmation to the Supreme Court on a vote of 13-6.  All the Democrats and one Republican, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), voted for Sotomayor with the rest of the Republicans voting against.  I wonder if the full Senate will vote for her this week?  Once the full Senate votes, Judge Sotomayor will become the newest Supreme Court Justice!