Obama, Dems Reach Major Compromise On Health Reform Bill, Though Other Issues Remain
President Obama and Democratic congressional leaders on Thursday reached a tentative agreement on a proposal to tax high-cost insurance plans, making progress on one of the major differences between the Senate and House health care reform bills (HR 3590, HR 3962), the New York Times reports (Pear/Greenhouse, New York Times, 1/15). However, negotiators must continue to work to resolve several other differences, including the issue of abortion coverage under federally subsidized insurance plans, USA Today reports.
According to USA Today, the Senate bill would allow federally subsidized insurance plans to offer abortion coverage but would require people to pay a separate premium to cover the procedure. The House version of the bill would not allow women using federal subsidies to purchase insurance that covers abortion services (Fritze, USA Today, 1/15). House Ways and Means Committee Chair Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) said negotiators have not yet discussed that issue.
Other issues that need to be resolved include whether the proposed health insurance exchanges would be set up nationally or state-based, the size of the federal subsidies that will be offered to people and the implementation date, CongressDaily reports. The House bill calls for a 2013 date, while the Senate bill calls for 2014 (Edney/Cohn, CongressDaily, 1/14).
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said, "We're on the brink of passing health care reform," adding, "We are making progress, which will get (us) closer to reconciling the House and Senate bills."
The Hill reports that Obama has increased pressure on Democratic leaders in Congress as he pushes for a final bill before his State of the Union address in a few weeks. However, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Democrats "don't have a deadline" or a "specific date" for a final bill. "What we are doing is trying to conclude our discussions with the Senate as quickly as possible so that we can get this matter to the floor and have it adopted as quickly as possible," he said (Young/Allen, The Hill, 1/14).
Negotiators are working to send a final package to the Congressional Budget Office on Friday but have said discussions could continue into Saturday, CongressDaily reports. CBO scoring would take at least several days, or possibly a week or more, CongressDaily reports (CongressDaily, 1/14).
Rep. Stupak Waiting for Final Abortion Coverage Language Before Deciding Vote
Meanwhile, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) said that he is waiting to see a final health reform bill -- with language on abortion coverage -- before he determines how he will vote, The Hill's "Blog Briefing Room" reports. Stupak wrote the House bill's amendment on abortion coverage (O'Brien, "Blog Briefing Room," The Hill, 1/14).
Stupak has said that he will vote against a final bill that does not include his language on abortion coverage or similar language. He said he expects about 10 to 12 antiabortion-rights House Democrats also to oppose a bill that includes the Senate's abortion coverage language instead of what was in the House bill.
Democratic House leaders are "saying we can ignore the abortion language provided we can get enough votes, people who voted no and will switch their votes," Stupak said, adding, "If they get enough, they don't even have to talk to me -- they can roll us on the issue."
At the same time, a group of about 40 House Democrats have said they will vote against a final bill that includes Stupak's abortion coverage language, Politico's "Live Pulse" reports (Hunt, "Live Pulse," Politico, 1/14).
In related news, Stupak is scheduled to visit Detroit on Friday to meet with Democratic Party activists as he considers a gubernatorial run in Michigan, the AP/Chicago Tribune reports. Stupak said that while his position on issues like abortion rights could be an obstacle to receiving the Democratic nomination, he is encouraged by the support he has received so far (Barks Hoffman, AP/Chicago Tribune, 1/14).
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