Let Us Carry the Baton

Carol Brown
On the subject of health care, Obama has drawn an analogy between the Senate and a relay team, urging senators to "take the baton and bring this effort to the finish line on behalf of the American people."

I say we all take that analogy and run with it. Let's take our message to every Senator, whether in our home state or not, especially those who hold the greatest power during this upcoming period of debate.

Reality check: The greatest challenge in the Senate is going to be the issue of competition between the government and private insurance companies.

Joe Lieberman has expressed concerns about a public option, including fear that it could become an expensive entitlement program that could trigger a recession greater than what we're experiencing now. Let's throw our support behind Senator Lieberman and keep him focused on these issues.

Lindsey Graham has stated that "the House bill is dead on arrival in the Senate." Let's hold him to his word!

Evan Bayh is using his influence to get Reid to revisit the proposed tax on medical device manufacturers. Senator Bayh has also expressed concerns about the cost implications of the bill for those who already have insurance.

Olympia Snowe has expressed some naïve notions of compromises she could live with. Mary Landrieu seems to be on board with Snowe's line of thinking. However, Senator Landrieu hasn't committed to allowing debate to begin on health care, citing concerns with "a government-run, taxpayer-funded, national public plan," along with state-specific concerns regarding Medicaid. Reid has some leverage with Landrieu on the latter concern as he has already starting focusing on health care issues in Louisiana. Exhibit A = Joseph Cao.

Let's take our case to Olympia Snowe and Mary Landrieu

Another Democrat on the fence is Ben Nelson of Nebraska. Not only does he dislike the idea of a public option, but as a former insurance company executive and state insurance commissioner, he is in favor of insurance companies maintaining their exemption to anti-trust laws. Reid has expressed his willingness to give in on this issue in order to gain Nelson's support.

And still another Democrat among those not in Harry Reid's pocket is Blanche Lincoln. We must make every effort to keep it that way. Senator Lincoln (who is up for re-election in 2010) is concerned not only about a government run program, but also about the overall cost. McCain won Arkansas by a huge margin last year and it's reasonable to assume the senator is sensitive to having conservative constituents.

Harry Reid has promised Obama he will get this bill done by the year's end. He is feverishly working on a bill that would have a public option that states could opt out of. The bill he is working on is a blend of two prior Senate versions. As you read this, Reid is trying to figure out how to get the 60 votes he needs to cut off debate so the bill can be brought to a final vote. He needs to hear from us!

Meanwhile, Reid is awaiting word from the Finance Committee on cost analysis. Right now the committee's version has no government plan. But Reid has expressed interest in including a public option in the final bill.

This is who sits on the Finance Committee. They need to hear from us about cost.

DEMOCRATS: Max Baucus, MT; John D. Rockefeller IV, WV; Kent Conrad, ND; Jeff Bingaman, NM; John Kerry, MA; Blanche L. Lincoln, AR; Ron Wyden, OR; Charles E. Schumer, NY; Debbie Stabenow, MI; Maria Cantwell, WA; Bill Nelson, FL; Robert Menendez, NJ; Thomas Carper, DE

REPUBLICANS:  Chuck Grassley, IA; Orrin Hatch, UT; Olympia J. Snowe, ME; Jon Kyl, AZ; Jim Bunning, KY; Mike Crapo, ID; Pat Roberts, KS; John Ensign, NV; Mike Enzi, WY; John Cornyn, TX

Here are the cliff notes of how the House and Senate bill differ:

  • Employer requirement to provide coverage. House, yes. Senate, no.

  • Increased coverage is paid for through increased taxes on the wealthy. House, yes. Senate version is more complex, using various taxes and fees, including what amount to penalties on so-called Cadillac plans.

  • Cost. House = 1.2 trillion over 10 years. Senate = (a mere!) 900 billion

  • Several amendments will be contentious, including abortion, immigration, and gun rights (gotta' love a bill on health care that's got gun rights thrown in!).

  • While the House bill requires employers to provide insurance, perspectives among various senators vary on this issue.
Meanwhile, Republican Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma has gone on record as wanting the entire 2,000-page bill be read aloud on the Senate floor. Senate rules state that the Democrats would have to accommodate the demand.

Let's keep the pressure on.

On the subject of health care, Obama has drawn an analogy between the Senate and a relay team, urging senators to "take the baton and bring this effort to the finish line on behalf of the American people."

I say we all take that analogy and run with it. Let's take our message to every Senator, whether in our home state or not, especially those who hold the greatest power during this upcoming period of debate.

Reality check: The greatest challenge in the Senate is going to be the issue of competition between the government and private insurance companies.

Joe Lieberman has expressed concerns about a public option, including fear that it could become an expensive entitlement program that could trigger a recession greater than what we're experiencing now. Let's throw our support behind Senator Lieberman and keep him focused on these issues.

Lindsey Graham has stated that "the House bill is dead on arrival in the Senate." Let's hold him to his word!

Evan Bayh is using his influence to get Reid to revisit the proposed tax on medical device manufacturers. Senator Bayh has also expressed concerns about the cost implications of the bill for those who already have insurance.

Olympia Snowe has expressed some naïve notions of compromises she could live with. Mary Landrieu seems to be on board with Snowe's line of thinking. However, Senator Landrieu hasn't committed to allowing debate to begin on health care, citing concerns with "a government-run, taxpayer-funded, national public plan," along with state-specific concerns regarding Medicaid. Reid has some leverage with Landrieu on the latter concern as he has already starting focusing on health care issues in Louisiana. Exhibit A = Joseph Cao.

Let's take our case to Olympia Snowe and Mary Landrieu

Another Democrat on the fence is Ben Nelson of Nebraska. Not only does he dislike the idea of a public option, but as a former insurance company executive and state insurance commissioner, he is in favor of insurance companies maintaining their exemption to anti-trust laws. Reid has expressed his willingness to give in on this issue in order to gain Nelson's support.

And still another Democrat among those not in Harry Reid's pocket is Blanche Lincoln. We must make every effort to keep it that way. Senator Lincoln (who is up for re-election in 2010) is concerned not only about a government run program, but also about the overall cost. McCain won Arkansas by a huge margin last year and it's reasonable to assume the senator is sensitive to having conservative constituents.

Harry Reid has promised Obama he will get this bill done by the year's end. He is feverishly working on a bill that would have a public option that states could opt out of. The bill he is working on is a blend of two prior Senate versions. As you read this, Reid is trying to figure out how to get the 60 votes he needs to cut off debate so the bill can be brought to a final vote. He needs to hear from us!

Meanwhile, Reid is awaiting word from the Finance Committee on cost analysis. Right now the committee's version has no government plan. But Reid has expressed interest in including a public option in the final bill.

This is who sits on the Finance Committee. They need to hear from us about cost.

DEMOCRATS: Max Baucus, MT; John D. Rockefeller IV, WV; Kent Conrad, ND; Jeff Bingaman, NM; John Kerry, MA; Blanche L. Lincoln, AR; Ron Wyden, OR; Charles E. Schumer, NY; Debbie Stabenow, MI; Maria Cantwell, WA; Bill Nelson, FL; Robert Menendez, NJ; Thomas Carper, DE

REPUBLICANS:  Chuck Grassley, IA; Orrin Hatch, UT; Olympia J. Snowe, ME; Jon Kyl, AZ; Jim Bunning, KY; Mike Crapo, ID; Pat Roberts, KS; John Ensign, NV; Mike Enzi, WY; John Cornyn, TX

Here are the cliff notes of how the House and Senate bill differ:

  • Employer requirement to provide coverage. House, yes. Senate, no.

  • Increased coverage is paid for through increased taxes on the wealthy. House, yes. Senate version is more complex, using various taxes and fees, including what amount to penalties on so-called Cadillac plans.

  • Cost. House = 1.2 trillion over 10 years. Senate = (a mere!) 900 billion

  • Several amendments will be contentious, including abortion, immigration, and gun rights (gotta' love a bill on health care that's got gun rights thrown in!).

  • While the House bill requires employers to provide insurance, perspectives among various senators vary on this issue.
Meanwhile, Republican Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma has gone on record as wanting the entire 2,000-page bill be read aloud on the Senate floor. Senate rules state that the Democrats would have to accommodate the demand.

Let's keep the pressure on.