Yesterday, during an appearance on MSNBC’s The Ed Show, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) suggested that if the Senate Finance Committee fails to pass a bipartisan health care bill by the September 15th deadline, Democrats should begin moving the Health, Education, Labor, Pensions (HELP) Committee’s bill through the Senate.
Describing that the HELP bill — which passed committee after 11 days of mark-up and 160 Republican amendments — as a “bipartisan, American bill,” Brown warned that if Baucus tries to satisfy “conservative lawmakers” from small states, “it means a lot of others aren’t [satisfied], including, I think, the majority of the country.” The HELP bill isn’t “bipartisan on the big fundamental issues,” like the public option and the employer mandate, Brown said, “but neither was Medicare. We would have never gotten Medicare 40 years ago if everyone had waited for the conservative Republicans to join on board”:
We had 11 days of mark up, 11 days of considering amendments in the HELP Committee. I’ve been in the House and Senate for a total of 16, 17 years now, and I have never seen a bill, in all this time that had that much attention paid to it, that many amendments, that long a period of mark up. We accepted 160 Republican amendments, this is a bipartisan bill. It’s just not bipartisan on the big fundamental issues, but neither was Medicare. We would have never gotten Medicare 40 years ago if everyone had waited for the conservative Republicans to join on board. It’s a difference in views….There is a deadline of September 15th. We need to enforce it. If Senator Baucus can’t get a deal by then we need to move forward and pass this bill. And we should use the HELP Committee bill, which is mainstream Democratic bill, mainstream American bill, and begin to move it through the Senate.
Passing the HELP bill through the Senate may present some difficulty. Since the HELP committee doesn’t have jursidiction over Medicare, Medicaid, or financing, lawmakers would have to add the necessary provisions in conference or on the floor, in the form of amendments. Circumventing the Senate Finance Committee, while rewarding the hard work of the HELP Committee, would certainly outrage the defenders of ‘bipartisanship’ and it’s unclear how many senators would be willing to outsource key decisions to a conference committee.
Still, the President is determined to pass a health care bill this year and yesterday, during an interview with MSNBC, he left the door open to Brown’s approach. “You know, I am glad that in the Senate Finance Committee, there have been a couple of Republicans…who have been willing to negotiate with Democrats to try and produce a bill,” Obama said, “but they haven’t yet and I think at some point, some time in September, we are just going to have to make an assessment.” “I would prefer Republicans working with us on that because I think it’s the interest of everybody. That shouldn’t be a partisan issue.”
Transcript: Read more