Debate over how to address health care reform has grown overwhelmingly contentious over the last week. The Democrats are working earnestly to appease various factions of their caucus, but it appears they are still far from finding a solution that will summon enough votes to produce a bill for the President. Last week, a block of fiscal conservative House Democrats — the Blue Dog Coalition —objected to the skyrocketing cost of the proposal and its effect upon the deficit. Debate within the Energy & Commerce Committee has come to a halt, and it’s possible leadership may bypass the committee and move to a floor vote later this week. Without Blue Dog support, it will be difficult to pass a bill through the House.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) has been working behind closed doors with a small bipartisan group of members who sit on his committee, including Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Mike Enzi (R-Wy.). Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) was part of the working group but announced last week he had reservations about many of the provisions under consideration and withdrew his support. A few sources claim that the working group has rejected the idea of raising alcohol taxes, but it’s still unclear how they intend to pay for the costs to implement the bill and whether they will adopt a government-run health care plan.
As discussion continues on Capitol Hill, the President is traveling throughout the country and conducting town hall meetings similar to those held during the campaign to rally support for reform. He’s beginning to face uncertainty among voters who are more concerned about restoring the economy and reducing government spending. New polls indicate that the public is coming to understand that reform will only come with huge costs in the form of taxes and disruptions to their current health care plans.
The clock is ticking as Congress and the White House work to produce legislation before they adjourn for the August recess.