Obama Asks Congress to Bypass Conference Committee to Finalize Health Bill
Published: January 6, 2010
President Barack Obama asked Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday to speed up efforts to finalize a health bill by renouncing to a traditional conference committee meant to resolve differences between the House and Senate versions, the Washington Post reports.
If Democratic leaders agree, the House would work on and amend the Senate version of the legislation before sending it back to the Senate for a final vote. Renouncing to a conference committee would help speed up action on the health bill and allow a passage before the State of the Union address in early February.
With the tight margin of votes in the Senate, House Democrats would likely have to make several concessions, including renouncing to a government plan, opposed by moderates in the Senate. Besides the public option, several differences remain between the two versions, including who to tax to finance the cost, the number of people to cover and abortion and illegal immigrants coverage.
Obama agreed at Tuesday evening’s meeting to help strengthen affordability measures beyond what’s in the Senate bill, the aide said.
Pelosi suggested Tuesday that House members wouldn’t insist on the government plan as long as the final bill provides “affordability for the middle class, accountability for the insurance companies, … accessibility by lowering cost at every stage.”
Democrats reacted defensively to criticism that they are taking the final, most crucial stage of the debate behind closed doors, contending they’ve conducted a transparent process with hundreds of public meetings and legislation posted online. Republicans seized on a newly released letter from the head of the C-SPAN network calling on congressional leaders to open the final talks to the public, and cited Obama’s campaign trail pledge to do just that.
Photo WDC via The Washington Independent