Dems Release Last-Minute Health Care Bill EditsNovember 4, 2009 - by Donny Shaw
Last night, the Democratic leadership released a Manager’s Amendment containing 42 pages of last-mute changes to their heath care bill (H.R. 3962), signaling that they are making progress in lining up the votes to pass it.
“With the completion of the Manager’s Amendment to the Affordable Health Care for America Act, we are now in the final stage of moving this critical bill through the House,” House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer [D, MD-5] said last night. The Democratic leadership has pledged to have the amendment posted online for at least 72 hours before beginning debate of the bill. According to the timestamp on the document, the amendment was officially filed at 8:53 p.m. ET on Tuesday night, meaning that the earliest debate could begin on the bill without breaking the pledge would be Friday night.
It’s likely, however, that the debate won’t begin until next week. UPDATE: The vote is scheduled to take place on Saturday at 6 p.m. ET.
House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelo si [D, CA-8] has posted a brief overview of the amendment at her blog. Other sites have already begun looking at it more critically. The Heritage Foundation says it includes a new $6 billion slush fund for Medicaid to dispense to nursing homes. The New York Times found language in the amendment to restrict the paper industry from getting a biofuel tax credit for using a fuel known as “black liquor.”
A lot of what’s in the amendment probably works like an earmark. By targeting incentives at districts served by on-the-fence representatives, the leadership typically uses these manager’s amendments to shore up the final votes they need to ensure passage of their bill.
Glenn Thrush at Politico says the amendment is also noteworthy for what it doesn’t include: changes to the bill’s restriction on the use of federal funds for abortions.
As it is currently written, the bill would prevent federal funds from being used for abortions by requiring insurers that provide abortion coverage to segregate any government affordability credits from individually-paid premiums so they can ensure that only the individual premiums are applied to abortion services. Rep. Bart Stupak [D, MI-1] is leading a group of about 40 pro-life Democrats who are threatening to vote en bloc against the bill unless language is added to disallow any insurer on the new Health Care Exchange that would be set up by the bill from covering abortions.
Hoyer has indicated that abortion language may be included in the “rule” that governs how the bill is brought to the floor. The text of the “rule” likely won’t be made public until a few hours before the debate begins, which Republicans say is a violation of the Democrats’ pledge to make the legislation public. “If Democrats continue to add closed-door deals to their bill after their manager’s amendment has been introduced, they will break their 72-hour promise,” said a spokesman for Minority Whip Rep. Eric Can tor [R, VA-7].
You can download a copy of the Manager’s Amendment here. If you find earmarks or anything else interesting, email me at donny at opencongress d0t org and I’ll post it to the blog.