This was the week when the gloves started to come off for those in Washington who are key players in the health care reform debate. Up until now, principals on both sides of the aisle had been talking about how a bi-partisan effort could produce reform that would lead to affordable, accessible, and quality health care.
This week talk became tougher. The Washington Post this morning reported that House Democrats, in consultation with the White House, will give Republican lawmakers until September to reach a compromise on President Obama’s signature health-care initiative — otherwise, they will use a shortcut to move the measure through Congress without Republican votes.
These “shortcuts” known as budget reconciliation, would permit lawmakers to roll Obama’s health-care proposals into a bill that cannot be filibustered, meaning Democrats could push it through the Senate with 51 votes, instead of the usual 60. Since Democrats control 58 seats in the Senate, they could approve a reconciliation bill without Republican votes or the support of some reluctant conservatives in their own party.
Meanwhile, on the Republican side, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the ranking minority member of the Senate Finance Committee made statements that suggest he may be less helpful in reaching bipartisan consensus than reform advocates have hoped.
According to an article published on thehill.com. Grassley said that erecting some form of new government benefit, which Democrats refer to as the public plan option, is a deal-breaker for Republicans.
“This is a deal-breaker for Republicans if it’s in and it’s a deal-breaker for Democrats if it’s not in,” Grassley said during a briefing with reporters hosted by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation on Thursday. “I think it’s a step toward single-payer, government-run healthcare for everyone,” he said.
The article noted that, despite the obstacle of how to handle the public plan option, Grassley reiterated his view that comprehensive health reform is necessary and that it must be legislated in 2009.
This debate promises to get very interesting.