Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Daily Strike-10/20/09-Healthcare Status Update

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. I hope you enjoyed my ranting yesterday. Today is a more news/analysis type entry. Enjoy.

HEALTH CARE: Could it be that we are seeing some movement on health care legislation in the House and Senate? Word out tonight is that House Speaker Pelosi is planning on bringing a bill with the "robust" public option to the House floor, most likely during the first week in November. Her decision is pending ratification by the full Democratic caucus this evening. This is fantastic news for progressives. The so-called "robust" public option is based on Medicare rates plus 5 percent. It is projected to save the government as much as $80 billion over ten years, and thus should theoretically prove attractive to fiscal conservatives. Blue Dogs and other rural Democrats have fought this version of the public option vociferously, complaining that reimbursement rates will short change rural doctors and hospitals. Their arguments have been undermined by cost estimates. Most of them have made a religion out of cost savings, and it would be hypocritical for them to oppose a bill that saves the government more money.

The question, of course, is whether such a bill could muster 218 votes on the House floor. I don't think Pelosi would be bringing it to the floor if it couldn't get a majority. My guess is that several Democrats from moderate districts have calmed down from the chaos of the August recess and are more open to seeing this whole effort through. Also, Pelosi is most likely angry that the Blue Dogs, like Rep. Mike Ross of Arkansas, backed away from hard-fought deals negotiated over the summer. A bill with a robust public option would not garner any Republican support, for sure. It would probably force the Democrats to scrap out the bare minimum of votes to pass the bill. But it would position the whole debate further to left as House and Senate leaders reconcile the bills in conference.

Meanwhile, Senator Reid claimed that his "Gang of 3" (Himself, Senator Dodd and Senator Baucus) have not decided whether to include the public option in the bill that comes to the Senate floor. Senator Reid says that he'll have something to send to the Congressional Budget Office shortly for a cost estimate.

THE SENATE: The Senate today agreed to the conference report to the Homeland Security Appropriations bill. Attached to this bill is a new rule allowing Guantanamo detainees to be tried in the U.S. That provision, and increased spending levels, caused 19 Senators to vote no. Democrat Bayh (IN) joined 18 Republicans in opposition. The bill has been agreed to by the House and will now be sent to President Obama for his signature. For those of you scoring at home, that's 4 of 12 appropriations bills that have now been sent to the President. It looks like some of the other bills will have to be packaged together in an "omnibus bill" if we want to get the appropriations process finished by the end of the year. The Senate has still not passed 4 appropriations bills, and time is quickly running out.

The Senate is now trying to break a logjam on a bill that fixes a schedule pay cut to doctors under Medicare. Several Democrats have come out in opposition to the fix, because it would not be paid for. House Majority Leader Hoyer, an ally of fiscally conservative Blue Dogs in both chambers, says that the bill must be paid for in order to pass the House. Members will have to find money from somewhere though, and any savings that can possibly be eked out of the current health care system have already been included in the various reform bills.

There's also the wonderful irony that Republicans, who have been telling the American people all year that they will protect their Medicare, are helping to hold up a bill that stops scheduled funding cuts to Medicare.

THE HOUSE: It was another quiet day in the House, with only a few suspension bills being considered. Majority Leader Hoyer blames the House's light recent schedule on the Senate, which has not acted on several House-passed pieces of legislation. He is 100% correct.

THE WHITE HOUSE: The President this morning met with the Prime Minister of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki. We sure haven't heard much about that war recently. Obama then flew to New York, first for a meeting with the Joint Terrorism Task Force, and then to hold a fundraiser for Democratic candidates. Obama struck a feisty tone at tonight's event, as he has done at recent fundraisers, accusing his Republican opponents of rooting for him to fail.

Yes, they are. Ignore them and get things done.

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