Some Movement on Health Care Legislation Possible

Some Movement on Health Care Legislation Possible

Town hall meetings may have changed things.

Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, says the outpouring of anger at town hall meetings this month has fundamentally altered the nature of the health-care debate and convinced him that lawmakers should consider drastically scaling back the scope of the effort. Grassley says the public has rejected the far-reaching proposals Democrats have put on the table, viewing them as overly expensive precursors to a government takeover of health care.


"People are signaling that we ought to slow up and find out where we are and don't spend so much money and don't get us so far into debt," said Grassley. The ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, Grassley hopes the panel can draft a better, less costly plan capable of winning broad support from Democrats and Republicans.


There may be some movement in the health care overhaul legislative package. Overnight, the "Gang of Six", led by Grassley, were to hold a conference call to discuss the issues. This development came as it was learned that the Obama administration is considering splitting the health care overhaul package into two pieces. This means passing more contentious provisions, including those that would create a government-run health plan, under a congressional procedure known as budget reconciliation that would make them immune to a filibuster in the Senate.


Word out of Washington is that the White House is increasingly comfortable with a strategy that could push some aspects of an overhaul through the Senate without Republican votes. Under one scenario, Senate Democratic leaders could break off provisions that enjoy bipartisan support, including new regulations barring insurers from denying coverage based on medical conditions and placing caps on some out-of-pocket expenses.


Senate leaders could then try to package more contentious provisions, including ones dealing with a public plan to compete with private insurers and tax increases to finance an overhaul, into a separate measure they would try to pass using the reconciliation process. Reconciliation bills can pass the Senate with a simple majority instead of the 60 votes needed to thwart blocking tactics by the opposition.

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