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Clues On Health Care In Obama's Budget

February 2, 2010 - by Eric Naing

President Obama seems to have bet his budget on health care reform becoming a reality.

David Herszenhorn, blogging for the the New York Times, notices that the president’s $3.8 trillion budget assumes that Congress will pass a health care bill:

President Obama says he has not given up on major health care legislation, and his new budget backs him up. The $3.8 trillion budget released by the White House on Monday includes $150 billion in deficit reduction over 10 years on the presumption that a health care bill will be adopted.

As a result, it seems that the budget reflects multiple layers of optimism. First, it presumes that despite the bleak outlook at the moment, Democrats will figure out a way to get the legislation approved over fierce Republican opposition. Then, it presumes that the bill will truly reduce future deficits.

Does this mean that the president is committed to the current health care bill (H.R.3590) as opposed to a watered down version that may not be able to produce that level of deficit reduction? And even if he is, what are the Democrats doing to pass the bill? The New Republic’s Jonathan Cohn lays out their current strategy:

On paper, the plan is straightforward and sensible: Pass the Senate bill, but only after coming to agreement on a set of amendments that would make the bill more acceptable to the House. Because the Democrats now have “just” 59 members in their caucus—one shy of what it takes to break united Republican filibusters—they’ll almost certainly have to pass those amendments through the budget reconciliation process.

Whether or not Democrats can pull this off remains unknown, but Obama’s budget numbers are at least giving some of them hope. Herszenhorn points to one example, Rep. Anthony Weiner [D, NY-9] who said on Monday:

“Hidden clue in budget documents — health care reform is alive.”
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