New Health Care Demands for Baucus and Reid

By Jacqueline Klingebiel

Oct 6, 2009 4:58pm

First, this letter for Baucus from Grassley and Hatch. They want both the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Tax Committee to be available to Senate Finance for questions before a final vote: "The American public has understandably become cynical with regards to Congress passing thousand-page bills with price tags in the hundreds of billions of dollars prior to examining the legislative documents. Providing Members the opportunity to ask questions of Director Elmendorf and Mr. Barthold before the committee votes would be in keeping with the tradition of transparency in the Finance Committee. It is also in keeping with your commitment, which we appreciate, that, “in good faith there will be time to look at the score,” and that we will have the opportunity as a committee to respond to issues raised by CBO and JCT before the vote. Moreover, it would send a signal to the American public that we take our duty seriously to understand how legislation will affect their lives prior to voting on reporting any legislation out of Committee.”Also, my Capitol Hill colleague ABC’s Z. Byron Wolf has new demands for Harry Reid from members of his Caucus… Conservative Democrats, whose votes are essential to passing a health reform package, demanded more transparency from Democratic leaders today. Eight Democrats signed a letter calling on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to post a CBO score and full legislative text of any health reform bill for a full 72 hours before a cloture vote on whether to proceed to the bill. That motion takes 60 votes, so these eight Democrats are able to make this demand. They also want a CBO report and updated legislative text after any amendments on the Senate floor to be online for 72 hours. Finally, they demand that any conference reporter that reconciles differences between a House and Senate version of health reform to be posted for 72 hours. “By publically posting the legislation and its CBO scores 72 hours before it is brought to a vote in the Senate and by publishing the text of amendments before they are debated, our constituents will have the opportunity to evaluate these policies and communicate their concerns or their message of support to their Members of Congress,” write the conservative Democrats. “As their democratically-elected representatives in Washington, D.C., it is our duty to listen to their concerns and to provide them with the chance to respond to proposals that will impact their lives.” That’s 216 hours – 9 days – that the conservative Democrats want set aside for legislative meditation. “At a time when trust in Congress and the U.S. government is unprecedentedly low, we can begin to rebuild the American people’s faith in their federal government through transparency and by actively inviting Americans to participate in the legislative process,” the Senators wrote.’ The Senate Finance Committee is expected to pass its version of health reform, written largely by Sen. Max Baucus after months of meetings with a bipartisan “gang of six”. A vote on that bill in committee has been delayed because CBO has been overloaded trying to come up with a final price tag for the bill. So the nine days demanded by the moderates today could extend even more. One major cause for concern among moderates and Republicans is the Finance Committee’s bill will be entirely rewritten by Senate Majority Harry Reid as he melds it with a more liberal version passed this summer by the Senate HELP Committee. That writing process, which includes moderates in the Senate, at least one Republican in Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-ME, and the White House, has already begun. Technically, the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid does not need legislative text to file cloture, so this demand will have some teeth. At the same time, a cloture vote can only occur two legislative days after the motion is filed. So they’re basically calling for an additional 12 hours. The call for legislative text being posted for three days originally came from Republicans. Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee repelled attempts by Republicans last month to mandate that any health reform legislation be posted online for 72 hours before the Committee vote. Democrats argued at the time that it was more effective to vote on a bill with “conceptual” rather than legislative language.
Here’s the letter was signed by Democrats Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, Evan Bayh of Indiana, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Jim Webb of Virginia, and Indy Joe Lieberman of Connecticut. To read the letter, click HERE.

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