The Hill reports on last night’s meeting between House and Senate leaders and the White House, where the decision has been formally made to not formally hold a conference committee, potentially speeding passage of a health care bill. I say “potentially” because passage is going to hinge on a bicameral agreement, and that’s not going to take a day or two. As expected, the Senate bill will generally be the template:
The Senate bill will serve as the vehicle by which Democrats hope to send a healthcare bill to Obama to sign into law. Under the “ping-pong” strategy, the House will take up the Senate bill and amend it, then send it back to the Senate for final approval.
The decision was made to scrap a conference committee out of concern that Republicans in both the House and the Senate would employ a series of procedural delaying tactics, only serving to delay the inevitable and frustrate the majority, aides said.
The real delaying tactics will emerge when the House and Senate try to create a mechanism that can get the requisite votes in each chamber. That will be the balancing act.
As for where the compensation for the public option will come in, apparently that will come in the form of… compensation for the middle class, in the form of more generous subsidies.
Obama agreed at Tuesday evening’s meeting to help strengthen affordability measures beyond what’s in the Senate bill, the aide said.
Pelosi suggested Tuesday that House members wouldn’t insist on the government plan as long as the final bill provides “affordability for the middle class, accountability for the insurance companies, … accessibility by lowering cost at every stage.”
This does make sense. During the campaign, when he was against mandates, Obama said that the problem with health insurance is not that people don’t want it, but that people cannot afford it. So tweaking the affordability measures would be positive. Of course, to really achieve affordability, Obama would need to allow that the bill go much higher than the $900 billion dollar ceiling he set back in September, so we’ll see how that goes.
Chris Van Hollen also mentioned in the above article that he wanted the Senate to include the repeal of the insurance industry’s anti-trust exemption. Seeing how Senate leadership all endorsed that repeal, and that the CBO has said it would not materially change too much (I think they’re being slightly pessimistic about that), I could see Ben Nelson swallowing that. The design of the exchanges could be determinative; a nationwide exchange would almost have to include repeal.