Congress Heads Home With Health Care Reform Unfinished

Posted on August 5, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

The House fled Washington for its August recess, leaving unresolved a massive health care reform package that has for months been President Obama’s cornerstone issue.
“It’s still completely in chaos,” on lobbyist said of the measure, which was being hammered out in three House and two Senate committees. The White House had hoped for floor votes in both houses of Congress before the recess, but appeared satisfied with the progress made so far.
“You’ll have the three committees of jurisdiction in the House that will have all approved a piece of legislation which, obviously, is a positive, a big positive step forward and gets us even closer to comprehensive health care reform,” said Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary.
“There are elements of this legislation that we think are laudable, and we’re waiting and hoping that the Senate Finance Committee will continue to work on a bipartisan basis to move their legislation forward so that, again, we can get something done here in the fall,” Gibbs said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the break will give members a chance to return to their districts to collect input from their constituents on the various works in progress. “The American people will have a chance to see what’s in it for them, and our members will have a chance to discuss this with their constituents,” she said.
Republicans sent their members home with encouragement to rally opposition to the measure: “The legislative battles we have engaged in over these last several months will be waiting when we return,” Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), chairman of the House Republican Conference, wrote in a memo to all GOP members.
Among the most contentious issues in the mammoth package is the so-called public option that would set up a government run health insurance system for those who cannot otherwise obtain coverage. Republicans oppose the public option, charging it will unfairly compete with private insurers.
The bill also likely will require employers to provide health care coverage for their workers, or face a tax based on the size of their payrolls. Controversy also surrounds provisions that would tax the health care coverage of the wealthiest Americans.
The measure would provide assistant to help low and middle income American’s pay for health insurance and a mechanism to control of the cost of prescription drugs.
Much of the haggling in recent days has been over ways to cut the cost of the package, estimated by the Congressional Budget Office at $1 trillion or more. Lawmakers on both sides of the Hill now say the measure will come in well below the $1 trillion threshold.
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