Democrats try new tactic to pass heath care bill

January 22, 2010 7:19:14 PM PST
In Washington, there is an on-going struggle over health care reform. Now, ABC7 has learned a bit more about what Democrats are planning to do to get the health care bill passed.

Democratic lawmakers are working on a plan that will let them get some of what they want from the Senate version of the healthcare bill and let them strip out or change the parts they do not like.

This week, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said there are not enough votes in the House to pass the Senate version of the health care bill.

"The Senate bill has an unacceptable tax on the middle class, it has these special provisions -- the Nebraska provision," said Rep. George Miller, D-Concord.

So among Democratic members of Congress, there is an alternate plan emerging.

"It appears as though they're going to take the unpopular parts of the Senate bill and put it into an amendment, pass it by budget reconciliation, and give it to the House," said ABC7 political analyst Bruce Cain, Ph.D.

Cain said the objectionable parts include: the Nebraska provision, which exempts Nebraska from increased Medicare costs, House Democrats also want to raise the level of subsidies for middle class families, and they would like to tweak the tax on so called "Cadillac" health plans.

"So they could pull those three fiscal matters out, they could fix them, pass them as an amendment under budget reconciliation or a separate bill, then send both bills to the House and the House could vote on both bills," said Cain.

And under that scenario, Democrats only need 51 votes in the Senate -- a simple majority. Miller says the details are still not settled, but budget reconciliation, with a simple majority vote, is part of the plan.

"I think that we'll be able to put together a bill that will pass the House and the Senate on a majority vote procedure as is in the Constitution of this country," said Miller.

Miller said the public option will be gone and so will coverage for abortions, but a bill will pass.

"It's crucial to our economy, it's crucial to families, it's crucial to all of the unemployed people who have lost their insurance because they've lost their jobs," said Miller.

Former regional head of Health and Human Services under the Bush administration, Tom Lorentzen, said it is the wrong approach.

"I think by forcing it though by a narrow margin is not going to earn the confidence of the American people that this is good legislation," said Lorentzen.

However, Cain believes Democrats are betting that anger will dissipate.

"And if you spend your time trying to fix the economy 2010, the health care bill will not be a major issue. That's what your hoping," said Cain.

Cain says there is no way the Democrats want to go forward without healthcare legislation. They have spent too much time on it and it will anger the base if something does not get passed and it will make Democrats look like they wasted their time, which is not something they want to do going into the 2010 election.