Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Health care bill on shaky ground

WASHINGTON — At least two Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee have refused to pledge support for the health care reform bill scheduled for a vote this week, underscoring the hard work ahead for President Barack Obama as he tries to enact the most ambitious domestic policy legislation in more than a generation.

Although Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., said he has the votes to pass the 10-year, $900 billion bill out of committee, Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., remained undecided Sunday. If all 10 Republicans on the panel vote no, two Democratic defections would be enough to send Baucus and the Obama White House scrambling to regroup.

"More needs to be done to hold insurance companies accountable, to hold premiums down for the American people," Wyden said in an interview Sunday. "I want to continue these discussions."

Committee defeat of the bill is an unlikely scenario, but one that highlights the immense power every Senate Democrat — and perhaps a few Republicans — holds going forward in a process that could stretch beyond Thanksgiving.

Wyden, like many other Democrats, has begun intensive talks with administration officials and with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who must blend the finance bill and a version approved by the health committee for the full Senate to consider.

To assemble the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster, Obama needs to hold every Democrat and Independent in the Senate.

He has assiduously courted them and Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, considered the most likely Republican to support sweeping health care reform. Snowe, a member of the Finance Committee, voted with Democrats on several key amendments but has remained coy about her intentions.

Last week Obama held one-on-one meetings at the White House with Sens. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Mary Landrieu, D-La. Virtually every day, he speaks by telephone to his former Senate colleagues, largely listening rather than making promises, according to administration and congressional aides familiar with the conversations.

Obama has dispatched budget director Peter Orszag, health czar Nancy-Ann DeParle and other aides to Capitol Hill.

Overall, the Baucus bill would extend coverage to about 30 million Americans who now lack it, provide tax credits to some small businesses and working families to buy insurance through a new marketplace called an exchange, and tighten restrictions on insurance underwriting practices. A final committee vote will come after the Congressional Budget Office releases cost projections.

Health care bill on shaky ground 10/04/09 [Last modified: Sunday, October 4, 2009 10:37pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Quiet college dropout turned bomber: Who was Salman Abedi?

    World

    LONDON — He was quiet and withdrawn, a college dropout who liked soccer — and, some say, showed alarming signs of being radicalized years before he walked into a pop concert at Britain's Manchester Arena and detonated a powerful bomb, killing himself and 22 others.

    Salman Abedi was identified by British authorities as the man behind Monday’s attack.
  2. Soldiers launch attacks in besieged Philippine city

    World

    MARAWI, Philippines — Backed by tanks and rocket-firing helicopters, Philippine troops launched "precision attacks" Thursday to clear extremists linked to the Islamic State group from a city that has been under siege since a raid that failed to capture one of Asia's most-wanted militants.

    Soldiers fire at enemy positions Thursday while trying to clear the city of Marawi, Philippines, of armed militants.
  3. Back to .500, Rays feel ready to roll (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Who wants to be mediocre? Middling? Average? Run-of-the-mill?

    Rays catcher Jesus Sucre tags out the Angels’ Mike Trout trying to score from second base after a perfect peg from rightfielder Steven Souza Jr. in the first inning.
  4. Seminole man accused of fracturing 8-month-old baby's leg

    Crime

    Deputies arrested a Seminole man Thursday after he fractured an 8-month-old baby's bones, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said.

    Gary G. Gibeault of Seminole was arrested on a charge of aggravated child abuse.
  5. St. Petersburg's ballooning sewage debt could threaten credit rating (but there's a Hail Mary plan to avoid that)

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — The city needs a lot of money — $435 million over the next five years — most of it to fix its leaky sewer pipes and aging sewer plants.

    In September 2016, signs at St. Petersburg’s North Shore Park warned people to stay out of the water due to contamination from sewage released by the city’s overwhelmed sewer system. The City Council on Thursday learned that the very expensive fix for its sewage woes could hamper the city’s credit rating. [LARA CERRI   |   Times]