December 23, 2009

I've been writing for weeks that the House needs to step up and improve the Senate health care bill in conference. They are co-equal branches and when a bill is to be merged, there are usually compromises made. Sen. Conrad screamed out on FNS and said that if the House tinkers with their precious bill, it won't pass.

CONRAD: It is very clear that the bill, the final bill, to pass in the United States Senate is going to be -- have to be very close to the bill that has been negotiated here. Otherwise you will not get 60 votes in the United States Senate.

My sources on the Hill have told me that Nancy Pelosi doesn't have the votes from progressives to pass the Senate bill as it stands. I know the White House doesn't want to play hardball now, but we do. What will Lieberman say if they do make changes to strengthen the bill? Will he be the man that killed health care reform to Americans?

mcjoan had an article posted yesterday that said the progressives appeared to be caving.

It's beginning to look like the House is going to cave into Lieberman and Nelson, too. TPMDC And co-chair of the Progressive Caucus Raul Grijalva seals it.

In the interview, Grijalva confirmed that House Dems were beginning to discuss the idea of revising the Senate bill in conference to move up the implementation date for insurance coverage and make it more in line with the earlier date in the House bill. I asked Grijalva if he could support the bill if such a change were made, even if it lacked a public option or other similar concessions sought by liberals. "It would sweeten it somewhat," Grijalva said, "if they speed up the coverage mechanism."

He added: "That would be something I’d have to look at very closely."

Asked if he was suggesting that he’s open to supporting such an outcome, Grijalva answered in the affirmative, but insisted that he would have to evaluate the changes in conference before making any decision. He said House liberals would continue to push for a public component and a repeal of the anti-trust exemption for insurance companies. And he demanded that conference negotiations not merely "rubber stamp" the Senate Bill.

Moving up implementation dates would help, and that appears to be a House leadership might use as a "key arguing point" in the upcoming conference.

But today a new Politico piece paints somewhat different picture: House Dems: We won't roll over

House Democrats insisted Tuesday they have no plans to roll over for the Senate in upcoming negotiations on a health reform bill, even as they acknowledged it would be all but impossible to reinsert a public insurance option or force the so-called millionaire's tax on the Senate.

Either move would disrupt Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s no-margin-for-error 60-vote majority. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her leadership team seem to have their sights set on lower-profile - but no-less important differences, like boosting affordability credits in the final bill and starting the insurance exchange a year earlier, which they did in the House.

Members will return the next week, and aides said they would still like to pass a bill by the State of the Union at the end of January or the beginning of February. But leadership staff in the House said that that doesn't mean they're prepared to just accept the Senate bill. {..}

"We want to move a bill by the State of the Union, but we want to do it because we're ready, not because we have to," an aide said.

Here are a few key points that can be fixed in conference, but please add your on

Again, I've been writing that the House needs to stand up and be counted and they seem to be listening to our calls not to roll over for the Senate. I've contacted several members of the House for comment and will get back to you soon on that.

There's plenty of info on-line that explains what's wrong with the Senate bill, but here's a few key points. Add to the list in the comments.

* National exchange (rather than state exchanges)

* Public option

* Repeal anti-trust exemption

* Wealthy surtax, rather than middle-class insurance tax

* Better affordability provisions in House bill, including level of subsidies and Medicaid to 150% poverty.

* Repeal Stupak language.

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