White House to offer its own reform bill?

WHITE HOUSE TO OFFER ITS OWN REFORM BILL?…. CNN reports this afternoon that the White House isn’t just prepping for a big health care speech before a joint session; it’s also putting together a health care bill.

CNN has learned that the White House is quietly working to draft health care legislation after allowing Congress to work on its own for months.

Multiple sources close to the process tell CNN that while the plan is uncertain, they are preparing for the possibility they could deliver their own legislation to Capitol Hill sometime after the President Barack Obama’s speech to a joint session of Congress Wednesday.

Your guess is as good as mine as to what will be in the legislation, and it’s unclear exactly how it would work in the legislative process. (Could the White House bill, for example, be the reconciled version of the tri-committee bill?) The CNN report added that the administration’s message is to emphasize a message that’s similar to the one on energy reform — get a bill passed, get a structure in place, and let it serve as new foundation for additional reforms in the coming years. It’s a bit like the FDR approach on Social Security.

In other words, if certain provisions are scuttled now, it doesn’t mean they’re gone for good. Is that just spin for excessive compromise and a watered-down bill? I guess it depends on one’s perspective.

One thing to definitely keep an eye on is the public option “trigger” we talked about yesterday. There’s a lot of buzz about such a provision today, and it seems to be the preferred way for the White House to drop the public option without dropping the public option. It’s going to take a helluva sales pitch to convince congressional progressives this is sufficient.

On a related note, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) chatted with the rest of the Gang of Six today — only their second conversation in six weeks, both of which were on the phone — and said he’s prepared to present a reform package soon, possibly as early as tomorrow. It wouldn’t have the formal backing of his little club, but the point would be to take “a big step toward forcing a final decision by the group as to whether it sees any realistic prospect of a bipartisan agreement.”

Whatever. At this point, Baucus’ bill hardly seems relevant and the Gang of Six is something of a punch-line. He and his gang had a shot at real relevance — before a third of the six decided they don’t want health care reform, and before the little group said they needed to use August to put together a compromise, only to do no work whatsoever.