Congressional timetable for health care reform slipping as new obstacles emerge

It is now all but certain that Congress will not meet the request of President Obama and Democratic leaders to pass health care reform legislation in both the U.S. House and Senate by the start of the August recess. Differences among Democratic leaders on several issues will need to be ironed out before we can expect to see votes on the House and Senate floor, according to a story in the Washington Post.

As House Democratic leaders prepared to unveil their health care reform bill on July 10, a group of influential “Blue Dog” conservative Democrats, mostly representing rural districts, announced a list of demands for changes in the bill, including more cost containment measures and protections for small businesses.

Democratic leaders have postponed unveiling their bill until July 17, but it is not clear that they will be able to satisfy the concerns raised by the Blue Dogs, who have 52 members in the House and could effectively prevent passage of a bill in the House if they join most Republicans in opposing the bill.

In the U.S. Senate, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other key Democrats have expressed opposition to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus’ proposal to tax a portion of employees’ health care benefits to raise $320 billion to help pay for health care reform. Reid is allied with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who has said that taxation of such benefits will not be a part of any final health care reform bill. The dean of Minnesota’s Congressional delegation, Rep. Jim Oberstar, has also said that he opposes taxing employee health care benefits.

The Minnesota Budget Project will continue to work with our state’s Congressional delegation to ensure that health care reform legislation provides adequate opportunities for access to quality affordable health care for low- and moderate-income Minnesotans.

-Steve Francisco

About Steve Francisco

Steve Francisco is the former federal policy analyst for the Minnesota Budget Project.
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