After two weeks of negotiations, Democratic leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives have reached a deal with conservative “Blue Dog” Democrats that will allow the health care reform bill to move forward. The “Blue Dogs” had threatened to line up with Republicans to defeat the House bill unless changes were made.
Under the agreement, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will convene later today (July 29) to mark-up (i.e., amend the bill) with the hope of proceeding to a committee vote by Friday, July 31. This committee is the bill’s last hurdle before heading to the House floor for a vote by the full chamber (two other committees have already approved the bill). House leaders, however, have agreed to put off debate and a vote on the House floor until after Congress returns from its August recess.
According to Politico.com, the “Blue Dogs” succeeded in cutting $100 billion from the bill, reducing the total cost to under $1 trillion over ten years. Under the agreement, the bill would exempt small businesses with payrolls of less than $500,000 from paying for any government-sponsored health care coverage (the threshold was $250,000 in the initial House bill). The bill would also allow states to create “co-ops” for residents to buy private insurance, but keeps the “public option” of government-sponsored health care that was in the original House bill.
In the U.S. Senate, all eyes are on the Finance Committee, which has not yet revealed how it would pay for health care reform. Chairman Max Baucus is reportedly working to attract bi-partisan support for a bill. The staff director of the Committee, Russ Sullivan, refuted rumors that an agreement was imminent stating, “while progress has been made in recent days, neither an accord nor an announcement is imminent. In fact, significant policy issues remain to be discussed among Members, and any one of these issues could preclude bipartisan agreement.”
We’ll keep you informed as we learn more details about both the House and Senate bills.