Suzy Khimm

Enzi: Dems Changed HELP Bill Without GOP Consent
October 12, 2009

As Obama's health care overhaul comes closer and closer to becoming a reality, Republicans have begun to accuse Democrats of sabotaging the very process of making the bill into a law. Mike Enzi--the ranking Republican member of the Senate HELP Committee--has accused the Democratic HELP staff of substantially altering the HELP bill as the plan was translated into its final legislative text, which was sent to the Senate floor last month.

The Medical Device Lobby Ramps up the Pressure
October 09, 2009

The Wall Street Journal has the goods on the medical device industry’s “11th hour scramble” to hammer out a health care deal with the Baucus folks. In dispute is the $40 billion in fees that the Senate Finance bill would impose on the device industry—a proposal that isn’t in any of the other bills.

The Sunstein-Thaler Version of the Public Option?
October 08, 2009

The Huffington Post has broken the news that yet another incarnation of the public could be coming into favor with Senate Democrats: a plan that would begin with a robust, national public plan, but allow state governments to “opt out” of the system should they chose. It’s worth noting that the compromise carries echoes of the Cass Sunstein-Richard Thaler school of policy design—the government would try to nudge things in the right direction by making the public plan the default option, but gives states the ability to opt out if they had the impetus, energy, and will to exclude themselves.

Could the Olympics Mean More Misery for Rio's Poor?
October 05, 2009

There’s no doubt that the IOC’s decision last week marks a huge symbolic victory for Brazil, South America, and the rest of the developing world. But could the arrival of the 2016 Olympics do more harm than good for Rio de Janeiro’s poorest residents? It could depend, in part, on how the Brazilian government plans to beef up security in advance of the Games. Security crackdowns in Rio de Janeiro have often amounted to police raids on the sprawling shantytowns, home to a third of the city’s population, where  drug traffickers have ensconced themselves.

The Bush Years, Redux! Abstinence-Only Education Is Back.
September 30, 2009

Last night, the Senate Finance Committee tried to ensure that one of the failures of the Bush administration will live on--in sex-ed classes across the country. Orrin Hatch’s amendment to provide $50 million a year for abstinence-only education passed by one vote, 12-11, with Blanche Lincoln and Kent Conrad joining the Republicans to tip the balance. After Obama’s election, abstinence advocates feared that Bush’s massive federal program for abstinence-only education--totaling some $176 million a year--would be dismantled.

Wonk Off!
September 23, 2009

The Senate Finance Committee has just cast its first vote of the day, and the claws are already out. Senator Jim Bunning had an amendment requiring the bill to be translated into legislative language and for the CBO to post a cost estimate based on the new version 72 hours before voting. It's a proposal that would delay the vote by at least 2 or 3 weeks, and opinions divided almost strictly along party lines.

What Will Unions Get out of the Baucus Bill?
September 23, 2009

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Baucus released his modified mark to the reform bill yesterday afternoon, indicating concessions that he is trying to make toward Olympia Snowe as well as recalcitrant Democrats like Jay Rockefeller. Among the amendments is a higher threshold for the proposed excise tax on so-called "Cadillac plans," which will be raised from $8,000 to $8,750 for individuals and from $21,000 to $22,000 for families.

What Howard Dean Would Do If He Were Harry Reid
September 17, 2009

Speaking Tuesday night at Busboys and Poets--homebase for lefties in Obama’s Washington--Howard Dean laid out his health reform game plan for liberal activists. “What we’re going to pass is a bill that includes a public option--the Democrats just don’t know it yet!” he boomed out to rousing cheers and applause.

EXCLUSIVE: Finance Bill Won't Increase the Cap on Subsidies
September 14, 2009

  Since the Baucus framework was released last week, there's been an ongoing debate about whether the Finance Committee's final bill will include any significant changes. One area of dispute has been the subsidy cap for uninsured families: Chairman Max Baucus set it at 300 percent above the federal poverty level in his framework (about $66,000 a year for a family of four). But others in the committee--including Olympia Snowe and Jeff Bingaman--have wanted to raise the subsidy cut-off to 400 percent (about $88,000 a year for a family of four).

For Rockefeller, At Least One Victory
September 14, 2009

Though he’s the second-ranking Democrat on the Finance Committee, Jay Rockefeller has had a hard time being heard in the health care debate. The West Virginia Senator has positioned himself to the left of the Gang of Six, the bipartisan group with which Chairman Max Baucus has been negotiating legislative language. In particular, Rockefeller has openly attacked Kent Conrad’s co-op plan and unabashedly defended partisanship as the route to real reform.