Jonathan Weisman and Naftali Bendavid of the Wall Street Journal had another update on health care reform yesterday. The chances of a bipartisan bill being completed are decreasing by the day. Due to this fact, the White House and Senate Democratic leadership have plans to split the bill into two parts and utilize reconciliation (budget-related items that can pass the Senate with 51 votes instead of the required 60 to overcome a filibuster) to pass the most expensive and controversial provisions. Since Republicans are against any kind of government intervention into health care, the Democrats are debating whether or not to go it alone.
President Obama has set a new goal for when his health care plan should be passed-by the end of 2009. Splitting up the bill and using reconciliation would all but ensure this objective.
Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, will decide whether or not to use the reconciliation tool. Jim Manley, a spokesman for Reid, was quoted in the article: “We will not make a decision to pursue reconciliation until we have exhausted efforts to produce a bipartisan bill. However, patience is not unlimited, and we are determined to get something done this year by any legislative means necessary.”
Senate Finance Committee members, seen as the last hope to hammer out a bipartisan agreement, are not giving up yet. Chairman of the Finance Committee and Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) said, “The Finance Committee is on track to reach a bipartisan agreement on comprehensive health care reform that can pass the Senate.”
Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY) explained how Republicans must be involved in the negotiations: “We need to get a bill the 75 or 80 senators can support. If the Democrats choose to shut out Republicans and moderate Democrats, their plan will fail because the American people will have no confidence in it.”
The bottom line is that if a deal is not reached by mid-September, the Democrats will most likely use reconciliation to get their bill passed.
To read the entire Wall Street Journal article, click here: New Rx for Health Plan: Split Bill