Yea or nay?
Democrats optimistic reform will pass this week
Democrats on Capitol Hill inched closer to finishing a yearlong effort to reshape the U.S. healthcare system. House and Senate leaders completed a last-minute agreement that importantly includes a student loan measure, with rank-and-file members saying they were optimistic that a bill can pass this week.
As always, the process could prove tricky and timelines are subject to change, but on March 12, senior lawmakers said they had forged a path that would result in dual passage of the Senate’s reform bill coupled with a White Housebacked proposal.
Both measures will move forward under a budgetary provision known as reconciliation, which effectively allows the Senate to pass the measures with a simple majority vote.
“There has been a tidal change in the last 72 hours, so I think people are becoming more confident that we’re going to get this done,” said Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.).
Healthcare-provider lobbying groups didn’t appear to be pushing for or blocking the final push. “We have a few concerns, like many interest groups do, but have set them aside,” said Larry Gage, president of the National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems, while speaking to House leaders last week.
Part of the package includes lan- guage that allows the federal government to make student loans directly rather than just back them. The measure passed the House earlier but faced an uncertain fate in the Senate. House leaders said that pairing the student funding with the healthcare portion of the bill is needed to balance out the reconciliation process, which can only work if the legislation reduces the federal deficit each year for a decade straight. Without it, the healthcare bill would not have met the requirements, several lawmakers said.
“From the House’s point of view, we don’t have much of a choice, given the ruling of the parliamentarian,” Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) said.
Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), chairman of the Education and Labor Committee, said the student loan measure also helps Democrats corral some votes for the bill that were previously on the bubble. “It’s critical,” he said. “People have made it very clear that they want to take this home.”
Party leaders also appeared to have reached an agreement on a few other thorny issues as well, including how to fund states that had already expanded their Medicaid eligibility requirements.
Weiner: “There has been a tidal change in the last 72 hours.”