Dems Face More Obstacles to Health Care Reform

This is a crucial week for health care reform. House Democratic leaders said the vote could happen by week’s end.  First, many obstacles must still be overcome.

Here’s a breakdown of what’s going on:

Monday, the House Budget committee enabled the House to fast track health care reform legislation. They voted, mostly along party lines, to send a reconciliation bill to the full House of Representatives for a vote.

The reconciliation bill, or so-called ‘fixes,’ has become crucial in this debate because the House dislikes the Senate bill. The fixes will make House-approved changes to the Senate bill. The Senate can then pass the changes with a simple majority.

Also on Monday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi generated new controversy with a new method of enacting health care.

She suggested the House might not pass the Senate bill at all. In a procedure called a “self-executing rule,” the House would deem the Senate bill passed without taking a vote. Then the House would take only one vote on the changes in the reconciliation bill.

You might be asking what is the reason for this?

Representative Lynn Woolsey (d-Calif.) explains. “It will help a lot of members that don’t want to have to vote for the Senate bill,” Woolsey said.

For instance, it would save the Congressional Hispanic Caucus from supporting harsh immigration provisions in the Senate bill that make it difficult for lawful immigrants to buy into the new health insurance exchange.

It excuses pro-life Democrats, led by Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), from voting for a Senate bill that he says allows federal funding for abortions.

On a day when Tea Party activists descended on Washington, the Republicans responded with outrage.

Representative Pete Sessions (R-TX.) says, “The American people are aware that the process that is going on is just as bad as the legislation that is being done.”

Democrats call the self-executing maneuver the “Slaughter Solution” after Representative Louis Slaughter, Chair of the Rules Committee, which sets the rules for House floor procedure.

Although elected Republicans have not made the claim, conservative bloggers and activists have called the maneuver unconstitutional.

Representative Slaughter deflects the criticism. “The constitutionality is not even in question,” she said.

The procedure has been used dozens of times since the 1980s; many of those times by Republicans.

Democrats are betting that people do not care about the process, but about substance.

House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters that people don‘t care about the process. “What is interesting to the American public [is] what did this bill do for them and their families?” Hoyer said.

The “Slaughter Solution” would only be used if that is the way the Democratic leadership can obtain the necessary 216 votes. If they have enough votes to pass the Senate version of the bill, the point is moot. Then the House would return to the previous plan to take two votes, one on the Senate bill and one on the reconciliation bill.

But other obstacles exist as well. The Democrats have not released language of the reconciliation bill. Those will include changes to the taxes levied to pay for the bill as well as increased subsidies for people to buy insurance.

Democrats promised to post the bill for 72 hours for the public to see. Every hour that passes with out a bill prolongs final passage.

President Obama wanted the bill passed before he leaves for Indonesia on Sunday.

Follow Leigh Ann Caldwell on Twitter and hear an audio version of this story on FSRN.


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