Majority Leader

On the Job

Anthony Wright is executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. He blogs daily at the Health Access Weblog and is a regular contributor to the Treatment. When Senate Majority Leader Reid held a press conference announcing the inclusion of a version of a public health insurance option in the merged Senate health reform bill, he didn’t mention the outcome of another major difference between the two Senate committee proposals--what would be responsibility of employers with regard to on-the-job coverage.

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By now you've heard the news: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will be including an "opt-out" variation on the public plan in the health care bill he brings to the Senate floor. It is not a full public option. It will not use reimbursements pegged to Medicare. As Ezra Klein says, it is still a major compromise for liberals. And yet it's also a lot more than liberals seemed likely to get, as recently as a few weeks ago. Indeed, it is hard to overstate what a turnaround this is--or how quickly it happened.

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Many liberals are hailing Senate Majority leader Harry Reid’s decision to pick the opt-out version of the public option over the trigger as a progressive victory. Representative Lynn Woolsey, co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus agrees--and thinks there’s no reason the House shouldn’t go even farther, and include a strong public option in its bill. Of course, we already know the House bill will be stronger than even the version that Reid endorsed today. It will be a national plan, with all states participating from the start.

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Is it curtains for the strong public option? Over the past week, the White House has taken a lot of heat for not going to bat for it, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has reportedly just decided that the Senate bill will include a watered-down proposal that would allow states to opt out of a national public plan.

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After a weekend of furious activity, Democratic leaders in the Senate think they are close to getting the votes they need in order to pass an "opt-out" version of the public option. But they feel like President Obama could be doing more to help them, with one senior staffer telling TNR on Sunday that the leadership would like, but has yet to receive, a clear "signal" of support for their effort. The White House, for its part, says President Obama supports a strong public option, as he always has--and that, as one senior administration official puts it, the president will support the Senate le

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And I thought yesterday was crazy. Brian Beutler has sources telling him that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is close to rounding up 60 votes for an "opt-out" public option, but that the White House is trying to slam on the brakes. The main reason? Republican Senator Olympia Snowe, whose support the White House covets, is against the idea and prefers some sort of trigger. One source tells Beutler:  They're skeptical of opt out and are generally deferential to the Snowe strategy that involves the trigger...

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Who is Us?

WASHINGTON--Is there room in the Republican Party for genuine moderates? Truth to tell, the GOP can't decide. More precisely, it's deeply divided over whether it should allow any divisions in the party at all. That's why the brawl in a single congressional district in far upstate New York is drawing the eyes of the nation. Conservatives are determined to use the race to prove that there is no place in the party for heretics, dissidents or independents. President Obama set up the fight by nominating the district's former representative, John McHugh, as his Army secretary.

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Give 'Em HELP Harry

The Senate Finance Committee has been the focus of so much attention, for so long a time, that it's easy to forget another committee in the Senate passed its own version of reform several months ago. The Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee had only partial jurisdiction, of course. It couldn't touch Medicare or Medicaid and it couldn't call for new revenue. But it had the opportunity to design a coverage system, including insurance exchanges, plus it had the chance to introduce some quality incentives. So how good a job did the committee do?

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Bill Frist, the heart transplant surgeon turned senator, didn't always distinguish himself as a man of principle when serving as Majority Leader from 2003 to 2007.

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The Hill has a piece about the upcoming Senate race in Nevada. It seems Danny Tarkanian, son of coaching legend Jerry, is looking to unseat the Senate majority leader with the help of some of daddy's old players and other NBA notables the family has become chummy with over the years. Among the better-known hoopsters rumored to be considering a Tarkanian assist is the popular, irrepressible, and politically minded Charles Barkley.

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