Saturday, February 13, 2010

What’s happening with the Healthcare Bill?

contributed by Shay Gines

With the surprise election of Republican Scott Brown in the special Massachusetts Senatorial race and the fact that political experts expect the U.S. to swing toward the right with more Republicans being elected in November, the Healthcare Reform bill finds itself in a precarious situation with increased pressure to pass it and quick. Without the super majority that Democrats have enjoyed this last year, it is not likely that they will be able to push the bill through. For some Democrats the rocky road ahead may not seem worth the fight and enthusiasm for the bill is waning.

Both the House and the Senate have already passed their version of the bill. However, they are not the same bill. Normally at this point, representatives from the House and from the Senate would meet to address the critical differences between the two, make compromises and merge the bills. Then each house would re-pass the bill before it is sent to the White House for the Presidential signature.

However, with the loss of that one crucial Senatorial seat the bill will not be able to garner the votes needed to pass in the Senate. Proponents of the bill have stated that they are considering their options which include breaking the bill into smaller pieces or scaling back. However, the current front runner is passing the bill through “reconciliation.” If the House supports the Senate’s already approved bill, it would allow the Senate to pass the bill with a simple majority vote and bypass a potential filibuster by Republicans.

While some supporters see reconciliation as the most amenable solution, there are some possible complications that need to be taken into account. Bill supporters from the House who feel that they have already made too many concessions want certain guarantees if they approve the Senate’s version of the bill. They want assurances that the inconsistencies between the two bills will actually be addressed by the Senate. The flip side of this is the threat from Senate Democrats who will reverse their vote if the final bill diverges too dramatically from the bill they originally passed. Ahhh politics.

Meanwhile Republicans are baring their teeth, anticipating that Democrats will try to avoid a full vote in the Senate. In an interview with the Salt Lake Tribute, Utah Senator Orin Hatch (R) said passing the bill through reconciliation would be "one of the worst grabs for power in the history of the country" and it would lead to all out political war.

In his State of the Union address, Obama said "Don't walk away from reform. Not now. Not when we are so close. Let us find a way to come together and finish the job for the American people."

However where healthcare once occupied the top spot on Obama’s agenda, it is now overshadowed by the economy and creating new domestic jobs. Obama and his administration are turning the focus to more achievable prospects. The politicians are tired of the debate and so are the American people. Hill staffers predict that if the bill is not passed by mid-March, then it will no longer be an attainable goal.

Given the choices, what would you do?


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