THE HOUSE SEEMED TO BE MAKING SUCH PROGRESS…. It’s been a tricky week for health care in the Senate, with disputes over funding, filibusters, and whether Republicans are even worth engaging in negotiation. At least there’s the House, where reform has been progressing fairly smoothly lately.
It’s a shame that progress hit a pothole yesterday.
The plan was for House leaders to release a real, live draft of reform legislation last night or today. That schedule has been temporarily scrapped, in light of new concerns from a wide variety of Democratic factions.
On Wednesday and Thursday, House Democrats of every stripe filled the speaker’s mailbox with a torrent of missives to make their case for what they do and don’t want in the legislation — all while tax-writers struggled to agree on ways to pay for it.
* Forty members of the conservative Blue Dog Coalition — representing just enough votes to kill a party-line vote — articulated their “strong reservations about the process and direction” of an early preview of the bill offered by chairmen of the Energy and Commerce, Education and Labor and Ways and Means committees.
* A pair of junior members of the House garnered 60-plus signatures on a letter siding with prescription-drug makers and President Obama and against the call of Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) to reinstate some price controls.
* A group of 22 wayward New Democrats expressed their hope that government-sponsored health coverage would piggyback on Medicare’s pre-existing network, despite earlier opposition to the idea from caucus leaders.
* And finally, a mix of 20 rural and Western Democrats made their case for why the bill should fix inequities in the reimbursement rates Medicare pays to health care providers in “low-cost, high-quality” states.
Of particular interest are the concerns of the conservative Blue Dogs, because their numbers are strong enough to derail the overall effort. Their demands include, but are not limited to, significant changes to the employer mandate and, predictably, more outreach to Republicans.
Democratic leaders suggested these factions’ concerns can and will be addressed, and will cause only a brief delay. Indeed, they said we can expect the rollout of the completed draft legislation as early as Monday, with an August deadline still in sight.