White House to present its own reform bill

WHITE HOUSE TO PRESENT ITS OWN REFORM BILL…. On Tuesday, White House officials offered their first hint that President Obama may present his own health care reform bill in advance of the Feb. 25 bipartisan summit. Now, the president and his team are poised to do just that.

President Obama will put forward comprehensive health care legislation intended to bridge differences between Senate and House Democrats ahead of a summit meeting with Republicans next week, senior administration officials and Congressional aides said Thursday.

Democratic officials said the president’s proposal was being written so that it could be attached to a budget bill as a way of averting a Republican filibuster in the Senate. The procedure, known as budget reconciliation, would let Democrats advance the bill with a simple majority rather than a 60-vote supermajority.

“There will be one proposal. It is the president’s,” Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said, adding, “I think the idea is that it will take some of the best of the ideas [from the House and Senate bills] and put them into a framework moving forward.”

The details of the White House plan are scarce, and by all appearances, still coming together. Based on reports, however, it seems the president’s proposal will not be a scaled-back package — it will include the same subsidies for the insured and consumer protections found in the House and Senate bills. Financing remains tricky, but the White House bill will apparently stick to the excise tax approach favored by the Senate, and include the compromise reached with union leaders before Massachusetts’ special election to limit its impact on workers.

Keep in mind, this White House package is not necessarily the result of House-Senate negotiations. In fact, by all accounts, Democratic leaders haven’t even seen the specifics of the president’s plan and have not yet signed off on its provisions. That said, lawmakers have strongly urged Obama to get directly involved, explain exactly what he wants in the final bill, and take the lead in getting this done. It appears the president is doing exactly that.

Also note that this represents something of an ultimatum to congressional Republicans: Dems are moving forward on this. The president is inviting GOP leaders to present their ideas and arguments, and has promised to consider them in good faith, but by crafting his own proposal, Obama is also making clear that their permission to govern is not a prerequisite. He’s open to incorporating Republican measures, but he’s not open to letting Republicans kill reform.

In other words, the message to the GOP is simple: you’ll get a chance to contribute, but we’re moving on with or without you.

White House officials reportedly intend to publish the president’s plan online by Monday morning. Stay tuned.