September 9th, 2009
02:49 PM ET
9 years ago

Key Democratic committee to unveil health-care bill next week

WASHINGTON (CNN) - A Democratic Senate chairman at the heart of Capitol Hill's delicate health-care negotiations announced Wednesday that he intends to unveil a long-awaited compromise reform bill from his committee next week.

Sen. Max Baucus of Montana , head of the Senate Finance Committee, also told reporters that he is prepared to move forward in the legislative process with or without Republican support.

"The time has come for action and we will act," Baucus told reporters.

"We have a path for moving forward. This is our moment."

The Finance Committee's "Gang of Six," a group of three Democratic and three Republican senators, has been working for months to craft bipartisan health-care legislation.

What's next in the health care fight? CNN Radio takes a look ahead

Baucus, who said he intends to continue working with the GOP minority, made the announcement after spending much of the morning meeting with committee Democrats. He said he expects that some Republicans will ultimately "be on board."

However, a number of leading Democrats have been indicating for some time that they do not expect much - if any - Republican support by the end of the process. Top House Republicans reiterated Wednesday their position that health-care deliberations should start over from scratch.

The White House had been pushing for an agreement on a compromise proposal in advance of President Barack Obama's health-care speech to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night.

The Finance Committee is the last of five congressional committees that need to approve health-care legislation before the topic can be taken up by both the full Senate and the full House of Representatives.

Three House committees have already approved a bill, along with the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.

One of the Democratic members of the Gang of Six pushed back hard earlier Wednesday against the idea of a firm deadline for passing a bill.

"This idea that there is a drop-dead day or hour is ... absolutely counterproductive to doing something that is critically important," Sen. Kent
Conrad of North Dakota told a group of reporters.

Baucus had set a 10 a.m. Wednesday deadline for the negotiators to come up with counterproposals to a compromise plan he circulated Tuesday. He told reporters that, in response, he had received several ideas from committee Republicans.

Baucus' plan would, among other things, drop the public option provision favored by many Democrats, allow for the creation of non-profit health-care cooperatives, and tax insurance companies that provide the most expensive health-insurance plans.

As with other reform proposals, it would would bar insurance companies from dropping a policyholder in the event of illness, add new protections for people with pre-existing conditions, and establish tax credits to help low- and middle-income families purchase insurance coverage, according to a source close to the negotiations. The plan also would create health-insurance exchanges to make it easier for small groups and individuals to buy insurance.

It proposes new fees intended to generate $6 billion from health insurance companies and $4 billion a year from the medical-device manufacturing sector starting in 2010, along with additional money from drug makers and clinical laboratories.

Under the proposal, health insurance would be mandatory for all Americans, and those lacking coverage could be fined, with a maximum penalty of $3,800 for families making more than 300 percent above the poverty line.

Considered part of a last-ditch effort to secure Republican votes for a health-care bill, the compromise proposal received a lukewarm reception from Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, one of the Republicans in the Gang of Six.

Grassley criticized the proposed tax on expensive health insurance policies Tuesday, telling CNN it would likely be passed on to consumers in the form of higher premiums and therefore drive up the cost of insurance. However, he indicated he could support the idea of non-profit health insurance cooperatives so long as the federal government had no role in operating them.

In addition, a source close to Grassley, who asked not to be identified because the negotiations are private, told CNN that the senator wants the bill to be less expensive than the estimated $880 billion price tag.

Baucus said Tuesday that he hoped to know before Obama's speech Wednesday night whether he can strike a deal with Grassley and the other participating Republicans - Sen. Mike Enzi of Wyoming and Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine.

White House and Democratic leadership sources have said for some time they do not think Grassley and Enzi will sign on to a compromise bill.
However, the Grassley source told CNN that the senator would offer counterproposals to Baucus on Wednesday morning, as requested.

Snowe, meanwhile, said Tuesday that reaching a deal on Baucus' timetable was "overly ambitious," but she remained committed to continuing to negotiate a bill that could win support from both Republicans and Democrats.

Snowe and the White House have been discussing a "trigger" provision that would mandate creation of a public-health-insurance option in the future if specific thresholds for expanded coverage and other changes were not met.

Support by Snowe would improve the chances of the Senate's Democratic majority to gather the 60 votes necessary to overcome a possible Republican filibuster against a health-care bill.

–CNN's Dana Bash contributed to this report

Filed under: Charles Grassley • Max Baucus
soundoff (35 Responses)
  1. Idiot_Pelosi

    Move forward you socialist pig, and we'll revolt in this country like you've never seen it before.

    The people who are reponsibile and work for a living are NOT giving anything up, we're not paying more taxes or fees to compenstate for others who have been lazy, irresponsible, or both.

    Any bill that passes that I don't like, and I cheat on my taxes. Period.

    September 9, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  2. j

    Wonder which lobbiest/lobbiests wrote "The Plan" ?????

    September 9, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  3. ran

    Yes it is time for action. Why wait any longer just give us single payer non-profit universal health care now. Then on to energy and immigrations and if need be without the GOP.

    September 9, 2009 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  4. Stacy Flores

    how many health bills do we need? Maybe we can blame President Bush for the many Health-care Bills. Anderson should look into it.

    September 9, 2009 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  5. cat

    I know one thing if the Max Bacus health insurance reform bill gets passed it would bring hardships on the American people, We did not vote for Max Bacus to do health care we voted for Obama. I trust Obama not Max Bacus. he does not want a good plan for the people he is too busy looking out for the insurance companies profits, espessily when thoses profits are funding his campaigns. I hope Max Bacus loses his seat for comming up with a farce of a health care insurance reform bill that is against the American people

    September 9, 2009 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  6. Chip

    It'll be D.O.A. I say that because at the bottom of page 74, in big bold print for all to see it says:
    Medical Malpractice Reform

    No way the Dems, who say we need a comprehensive overhaul of the system, will ever buy that.

    September 9, 2009 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  7. C Franklin

    What do you think we have now...Insurance companies that try to take coverage from you when you actually need it the worse. They sign death sentences everyday for people that are the least able to defend theirselves, knowing that they will probably die before a lawsuit can make it through all of their lawyers and money. At least this way, it will be standard across the board for all instead of the rich live the poor die.


    September 9, 2009 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  8. "The time has come for action and we will act"

    good, now no more talk, and lots more action

    September 9, 2009 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  9. Steph

    Good! It is time to move forward. Anyone who wants to be part of respectful discussions, please join in. Anyone who wants to scream out lies like death panels, socialized medicine, etc... please sit down. You had your fun on the bus. Now let the adults get to work.

    September 9, 2009 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  10. By all means pin this down before the speech

    Why the rush? The only good rush (other than a gold rush) would be a Rush Limbaugh. I would love to see him in a CZAR position, maybe overseeing the Exit Strategy of Government pushmongers in 2010.

    Stop long enough to smell the roses and you will find that this Administration stinks to high heaven.

    Why in the name of sanity is President Obama 'speaking' about this anymore?

    September 9, 2009 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  11. RealityKing

    A bipartisan bill can be passed.., if Obama is serious about Healthcare reform.

    September 9, 2009 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  12. Oh Good Health Care Bill # 26

    NO wonder Americans are confused and fed up with healt care reform talk - it seems every politician on Capitol Hill has his or her own health care reform bill. Everyone that is, except the most important guy – President OFlameout

    September 9, 2009 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  13. JP

    How can you have healthcare reform with out medical malpractice reform. So far in this entire debate the greedy ambulance chasers have had their welfare put before the U.S. taxpayers. Of the 2 trillion dollar cost how much of it will go for be newly covered illegals after Obama makes good on his promise to "create a path to citizenship".

    September 9, 2009 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  14. Fair is Fair

    RIP government healthcare.

    September 9, 2009 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  15. Vicki Boltz

    When did it become acceptable to trash the President? Our current trend is disgusting and totally disrespectful to the chair. It appears that the man's color bothers all of you, and not what could be best for the country. 500 plus congressmen and 200 senators created this mess, (not ex-President Bush or our current President Obama. Let's vote them all out next time around, if we last that long with all this inside bickering that accomplilshes nothing. When did this country of optomists become such wusses? When you all whined about everything and didn't fix a thing.

    September 9, 2009 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  16. Enough

    Is there any way they can FORCE doctors and hospitals to accept their crappy plan? Maybe doctors should be included in their proposals.

    September 9, 2009 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  17. Kevin in Ohio

    This may be the moment.... for defeat of such an ill-conceived and partisan plan.

    September 9, 2009 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  18. Truth-Bomb Thrower

    Gee. I wonder if TORT REFORM is going to be a part of this bill to help bring down healthcare costs. (Like the ambulance-chasing trial lawyers would let the democrats bring that up.)

    September 9, 2009 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  19. Ryan

    People of America: "Please listen to us, we don't want this kind of health care reform."

    Max Baucus: "Who cares what you think. We are going to do what we want, with or without you."


    September 9, 2009 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  20. Morgan

    A deadline is good because we can run around in circles all day and not get things done. A deadline forces people to put up or shut up.

    Good job finding a backbone Baucus!

    September 9, 2009 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  21. Proud Member..Party of No

    My health care is great. My insurance company is excellent, efficient and easy to work with. Do I wish health care was cheaper? Sure, and I wish gas was cheaper and houses and vehicles were cheaper, too. At least in the health care field I have seen huge leaps in progress towards curing disease and general health improvement. Where's the crisis?

    September 9, 2009 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  22. ketrout

    It truly is a shame that politics are being played at the expense of the American people. Why are representatives cannot come together and work towards a common goal is beyond me!

    Whatever bill that comes out better contain in PLAIN SIMPLE ENGLISH that the 12 to 20 million ILLEGAL ALIENS WILL NOT RECEIVE FREE MEDICAL CARE!



    September 9, 2009 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  23. Thomas Jefferson

    "If people let government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny." – Thomas Jefferson

    September 9, 2009 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  24. Simmy

    Sen. Skank Baucus, and five fools, please drive away into the sunset....You're as necessary as mold on bread......You should be ashamed of yourselves, you bull dogs.....

    September 9, 2009 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  25. J.P.

    Will this great "compromise" bill cite specifically WHICH enumerated power in the Constitution grants the Congress the authority to provide womb-to-tomb nanny-state medical care for every citizen?

    If no, then it's a non-starter.

    September 9, 2009 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
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