Sunday, January 24, 2010

Van Hollen: "Senate Bill’s Brand May Be Irrevocably Tarnished, So We May Go Reconciliation Instead"

Greg Sargent:
In a candid assessment of the politics of health care, DCCC chief Chris Van Hollen said in an interview that the Senate bill’s brand may be irrevocably tarnished, particularly among independents — and confirmed that partly for this reason, Dem leaders may pass a new set of reforms via reconciliation, which could be repackaged free of the Senate bill’s taint.
Van Hollen also added that it would be a mistake for Dems to pretend the unpopularity of the Senate reform proposals wasn’t a factor in the Massachusetts loss.

Van Hollen’s comments provide perhaps the clearest glimpse yet into the thinking of Dem leaders and the options they’re considering, and illustrate why they may be reluctant for the House to pass the Senate bill, as some want.

“Because of provisions like the Nebraska deal, the Senate bill has been branded in a way that understandably makes it unacceptable in its current form to many voters, especially independents,” Van Hollen told me, adding that Senator Ben Nelson has acknowledged this provision is problematic and must be changed.

He said this was a lesson of Tuesday’s loss: “The Massachusetts election turned on lots of factors. One factor was health care reform,” he said, referring to the Senate bill.

Van Hollen stressed that all options remain on the table, including the House passing the Senate bill with significant legislative changes. But he said the Senate bill’s image problems had led Dem leaders to give serious consideration to assembling a new package and passing it through reconciliation.

“One option would be to pick up where we were in the House and Senate negotiations and work to incorporate those agreements into some legislative package,” Van Hollen said. “It would have to move through what we are calling the majority rule procedure in the Senate. The provisions that had been agreed to between the House and Senate would be able to survive that process.”
“We would focus on essential elements in the health care package that have wide public support,” he said. Among them: Creating more competition and more consumer choice; taking away special deals for the insurance industry, like the antitrust exemption; and “making sure that insurance companies couldn’t deny you coverage at the time you need it the most.”

These provisions “have gotten lost in the public discussion,” Van Hollen said, adding that repackaging the proposals would let Dems “make it clear that this is a different bill.”
Howie P.S.: The AP has their own timeline and history of the behind-the-scenes "discussions."

No comments: