After Harry Reid told Max Baucus that taxing employer-provided health benefits was off the table because of a lack of votes, the Senate Finance committee is now scrambling to figure out new ways to pay for the $1 trillion-plus cost of health care legislation. President Obama’s idea — to limit the charity tax deduction for high-income individiuals — has also been unpopular on the Hill. This is another indication that Democrats’ timeline to get health care bills passed in the House and Senate before the August recess is looking increasingly unrealistic. Keep in mind that under the original schedule, the Finance committee was supposed to begin marking up, or rewriting, legislation the week of June 22. That date got pushed back to this week after the CBO put the price tag of a draft of the Finance committee bill at $1.6 trillion and Baucus sought to chop it down. Yet here we are, and Democrats are still looking for ways to pay for the legislation.
Obviously, this setback on the financing front will push the timeline back even further. And remember, even when the Finance committee comes up with a draft of the bill, it still has to go through the markup process, and then be reconciled with the much more liberal bill coming out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committtee. Budget committee chairman Kent Conrad sounds like a Republican when he says, as quoted by the Politico: “The important thing is to get it right, not to get stuck on some specific day or some specific week.” And as I’ve noting, time is the Democrats’ enemy. It’s no wonder that liberal health care journalist Jonathan Cohn is concerned.
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