Democratic Leaders Plot Course To Finish Health Reform Legislation
The Wall Street Journal: "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, responding to Republican criticism of closed-door meetings on health-care legislation, said Tuesday that she would strive for transparency as Democrats kicked off their final push for a bill. The head of cable network C-SPAN, which shows government proceedings, wrote a letter to Ms. Pelosi and other congressional leaders saying they should allow cameras at the discussions. That echoed a point Republicans have often made during the health-care debate, charging that Democrats were making too many decisions in private discussions." But Democrats "deflected the request" and said the process has been transparent with more than 100 public hearings. They also said part of the last stages of construction of a final bill will be available via the Internet (Adamy, 1/6).
NPR reports "some House members resisted the idea of purely informal negotiations, because they feared they might lose some leverage in the bargaining," but the final decision to negotiate informally came after Obama met with House and Senate leaders (Rovner, 1/6).
The Washington Post: Democratic leaders pledged Tuesday "to overcome their remaining differences, with the aim of sending a bill to President Obama before his State of the Union address in late January or early February. ... But before Democrats can claim victory, major policy gaps must be bridged." The House and Senate negotiators have little room to maneuver these differences. After a Tuesday evening White House meeting, House Democratic leaders "agreed on a fast-track alternative to the traditional House-Senate conference committee" which would involve the House passing the Senate bill "amended with new compromise provisions" and then sending "the package back to the Senate for one final vote." Key among the provisions that must be worked out is the House's inclusion of a "federally funded insurance option." Also, "the House would create a national insurance exchange, while the Senate would take a state-by-state approach to such a marketplace" (Murray, 1/6).
Politico: "Pelosi and her committee chairmen will return Wednesday for another meeting with Obama, and House and Senate staff also are also expected to sit down with administration officials, aides said." The White House had said Obama was reserving his leverage on health reform to affect the reconciliation and "now seems prepared to use it." (Budoff Brown and O'Connor, 1/5).