Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., believes the Senate Finance Committee could vote on their health-care reform bill before the Senate recess begins on Aug. 7. Consensus is building among a bipartisan group of Senators on the Finance Committee and that could shift the dynamics and lead to a final product. However, the final bill could be without many of the President's priorities.
The legislation is expected to include incentives for employers to provide health insurance for their workers, rather than a more punitive coverage mandate. The committee is also likely to endorse narrowly targeted tax increases, rejecting a controversial tax surcharge on wealthy households that the House adopted, and limits on deductions for upper-income taxpayers that Obama is seeking.
At the insistence of GOP negotiators, also, missing from the plan will be the kind of government-run insurance plan that Obama and most Democrats are pushing for in an attempt to inject the health-insurance market with pricing competition. Instead, the committee would create coverage cooperatives modeled after rural electricity providers.
A Congressional Budget Office report shows that the Senate's draft health overhaul bill would cost less than $900 billion over 10 years and cover 95% of Americans by 2015 and be fully offset. Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., who authored the bill says the CBO report is encouraging though it does not include resolution of several key issues.
Senator Michael Enzi, R-Wyo., says no deal is imminent and there are still several areas that a consensus has yet to be reached.
Meanwhile, the House Energy and Commerce Committee is expected to resume markup of their health care overhaul package after making major policy concessions to a group of moderate Blue Dog Democrats on the committee. The Blue Dogs also won a promise from Democratic leaders that the full House will not vote on the measure until September.
Representative Mike Ross, D-Ark., acting as a spokesman for the dissident Blue Dogs, said that four of the seven have agreed to support the revised measure as long as other Democrats agree to changes that he said would reduce the bill's cost below $1 trillion, increase the number of small businesses exempt from its requirements and weaken a government-run insurance plan that would compete with private insurers.
The problem with the remaining three Blue Dogs appears to be simple. According to Representative Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., they have not signed off on the revisions because they haven't yet had a chance to study it.