House Dems Unveil the 'America's Affordable Health Choices Act'July 14, 2009 - by Donny Shaw
At a press conference just moments ago, House Democrats unveiled the full text of their health care reform bill as it is being officially introduced into Congress today. At the link below you can view the bill on OpenCongress where you can leave your comments, your vote, and see relevant news and blog posts:
The bill seeks to expand health care coverage to the approximately 40 million Americans who are currently uninsured by lowering the cost of health care and making the system more efficient. To that end it includes a new government-run insurance plan to compete with the private companies, a requirement that all Americans have health insurance, a prohibition on denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions and, to pay for it all, a surtax on households with an income above $350,000.
This bill is considered the most progressive of the health care proposals currently being floated in Congress. The Senate is expected to release two separate health care bills in the coming weeks – one from the HELP Committee and one from the Finance Committee – both containing many more concessions to Republicans and conservative Democrats.
On Monday night, House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi [D, CA-8] said the bill unveiled today “won’t be the finished product.” As we saw last week when the concerns of 40 Blue Dog Democrats caused a previous unveiling to be delayed, there are still many issues that need to be worked out among the Democrats to get the bill into passable shape.
With a 255-178 majority in the House, Democrats can’t afford any major defections if they are to reach the 218 votes they need for the bill to pass. Very few Republicans, if any at all, are expected to vote for the bill. That means, for example, that the 40 Blue Dogs who delayed the bill’s unveiling last week over concerns about the public option, have the numbers to sink the bill.
Blue Dog Rep. Mike Ross [D, AR-4], who is heading up the Blue Dogs’ Health Care Task Force, met with Energy and Commerce Chairman Rep. Henry Waxman [D, CA-30] on Monday night to go over some of their concerns. Waxman made some concessions – notably, expanding the small business exemption to the employer mandate – but Ross left the meeting saying that the bill still “will need significant other changes” if the Blue Dogs are to support it.
“He understands he’s got to have the votes to get it out of committee and my count is he’s about nine short right now,” Ross said after his meeting with Chairman Waxman. An interesting aside to the Blue Dog’s role in the debate over health care legislation is this analysis from Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight: Blue Dog Districts Need Health Care More than Most
As for the Republicans, their plan for the health care debate appears to be taking shape: slow it down.
Congress Daily ($) notes a prominent messaging memo being circulated from Republican strategist Alex Castellanos that seeks to establish the Republican talking point as, “Slow down the Obama experiment with our health.”
“Even voters who support a ‘public plan’ think Obama and Congress are moving too fast, with reckless speed, risking a huge part of our economy and our health care when they don’t know what reform would really bring,” the memo states. You can read about the Republicans’ alternative health care plan at Reuters.
House committees are expected to begin work on the Democrats’ bill immediately with a full House vote on the bill likely next week. We’ll be following it closely – subscribe to this blog’s RSS feed to stay up to date on all the developments with this bill as they happen.