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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

HEALTHCARE ENDGAME APPROACHING QUICKLY

Democratic leaders are meeting and strategizing around the clock as Congress tries to pass the stalled healthcare bill either before the President leaves for an oversees trip on the 18th, or before the Easter recess beginning on March 26. At the same time Democrats seek a way forward, Virginia is poised to become the first state to ban mandated coverage (pending the signature of Gov. Bob McDonnell-R), should such a requirement be a part of a new federal health care bill.

"Thirty-four other state legislatures have either filed or porposed similar measures -- statutes or constitutional amendments -- rejecting health insurance mandates, according to the American Legislative Exchange Council," the Associated Press has reported.

The Congressional democratic leadership is facing two separate hurdles. The first hurdle is gaining or keeping enough votes to ensure passage among an increasingly squeamish body of democrats. The other is the process itself: the use of "reconciliation."

Reconciliation, which is a way around a Republican filibuster in the Senate, is widely believed to be the only way forward on the current bill. The rules seem to indicate that the House will have to pass the Senate bill (the bill passed last Decemner), and then a separate reconciliation bill containing changes --or “fixes”-- can be considered.

However, a ruling is anticipated by the Senate Parliamentarian in which he determines whether the reconciliation process can be used in this case. This may mean that Obama might even have to sign the legislation into law before the Senate can even consider the House “fixes”. This is said to be creating distrust among House Democrats of their Senate counterparts.

Complicating matters is whether at this point the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), a key non-partisan figure, can even score(give cost estimates) “fixes” at this point. Kent Conrad (D-ND) said that “For the scoring to change it has to have passed Congress, and that means both houses." Despite this, there are reports that a score might be out this week on the reconciliation portion.

With the matter far from settled, and another self-imposed deadline looming, the time and options are running short. All the while, serious rationing concerns described in earlier posts still remain.

-revised 3.11.2010

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