President Obama began his remarks in the East Room on Wednesday with a reminiscence. Almost exactly one year before, he had stood in the very same spot, formally launching his initiative to reform America’s health care system. I happened to be there that day and I remember it well. Representatives of every interest group were there, as were congressional leaders of both parties.
The speech was straightforward and simple: We've been working at this all year, we have a good plan, now it's time to bring health care reform to an up-or-down vote. President Obama didn't use the word "reconciliation," but he did say it should be up to congressional majorities, rather than super-majorities, to make the call on final amendments to health care reform. He reminded everybody of his efforts to include Republicans, and pointed to the Republican ideas he ended up including.
Another major step forward: Senator Tom Harkin tells Politico that the Senate will take up amendments to its health care bill via the reconciliation process: The House, he said, will first pass the Senate bill after Senate leaders demonstrate to House leaders that they have the votes to pass reconciliation in the Senate. Harkin made the comments after a meeting in Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office including Harkin and Sens. Baucus, Dodd, Durbin, Schumer and Murray. This is consistent with what House sources said yesterday.
President Obama got a lot of attention for the letter he sent Congress on Tuesday. But a leader of the House Democrats made some news, too. The leader was Majority Whip Steny Hoyer, who was speaking at his weekly press conference. As Politico has reported, discussion turned to a key procedural dispute between the two chambers: Would the House vote on the Senate bill right away, or would it wait until the Senate had approved amendments to the bill? The House has been saying it wants the Senate to go first and, during the press conference, Hoyer reiterated that stance.
Ezra Klein has a lengthy, thorough response to the arguments that Republican Paul Ryan has made about the Democratic plans for health care reform. According to Ezra, Ryan make a few good points but is mostly wrong. It will shock you, I know, to hear that I agree with Ezra's analysis. But that's not the reason, or at least the only reason, the article is worth reading. At the end of the article, Ezra reports on an interview he conducted with economist Robert Reischauer: Robert Reischauer is the head of the Urban Institute.
Inside Health Policy's Julian Pecquet and Amy Lotven report on a Democratic memo sketching out a timeline for passage of health care reform. The gist is pretty simple: The House takes up the Senate bill and passed it by March 19. A few days later it passes a reconciliation bill and sends it over to the Senate, which starts the voting process on March 26. It's a "process" because, even though the reconciliation process limits debate to 20 hours, it doesn't limit amendments.
You’d have to be pretty cold-hearted to think somebody should go without insurance just because she has a kid with asthma, was born with diabetes, or survived a bout of breast cancer--just three of the conditions that today would render an individual “un-insurable” in the eyes of the insurance industry. To fix this problem, President Obama and the Democrats would prohibit insurers from denying coverage, or even charging higher rates, to people with pre-existing medical conditions.
If you obsess over every twist and turn in the health care debate, you may have noticed a story that Fox News posted on its website a few hours ago: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Monday President Obama will soon propose a health care bill that will be "much smaller" than the House bill but "big enough" to put the country on a "path" toward health care reform. A senior administration official told Fox Obama's proposal will be introduced Wednesday. "In a matter of days, we will have a proposal," Pelosi said, pointing to Obama's forthcoming bill.
Daniel Nichanian has an excellent post up at Campaign Diaries breaking down all of the House Democratic votes for health care reform now in play. It takes account of the very latest news, including the word that Republican Nathan Deal is stepping down. That reduces the majority threshold to 216. It doesn't attempt to predict a final outcome, but I suspect that both optimists and pessimists will find grist for their views.