Domingo, 08 de noviembre de 2009

UPDATE 1-SCENARIOS-USSenate now in healthcare spotlight

Sun Nov 8, 2009 12:02amEST

(Adds second Republicanbacking health reform, details)

By John Whitesides

WASHINGTON, Nov 7(Reuters) - After a narrow win in the U.S. House of Representatives,President Barack Obama's fight for a sweeping healthcare overhaul movesto the U.S. Senate where it faces a difficult path to approval.

The Senate's version ofhealthcare reform has been stalled as Democratic leader Harry Reidawaits cost estimates from congressional budget analysts and searchesfor an approach that can win the 60 votes needed to overcome Republicanprocedural hurdles.

Eventually, the Houseand Senate will have to reconcile their separate bills into a singleproposal that can be signed by Obama, who has set a now-threatened goalof finishing work by the end of the year.

Here is a look at howthe issue might play out as it moves through Congress over the next fewweeks:


Reid has made histoughest decision in merging the separate bills passed by the Financeand Health panels: He included a national government-run publicinsurance option, which was part of the Health bill but was not in theFinance measure.

Reid also included acompromise that would allow states to decline to participate, or "optout," of the government-run program -- an effort to appease moderates,most from conservative Republican-leaning states, who oppose a nationalpublic option.

Reid has little marginfor error -- Democrats control exactly 60 votes, the number needed toovercome procedural hurdles and pass a bill. Most of the dozen or soDemocratic moderates in the Senate remain uncommitted or oppose thepublic option.

Senator Joe Lieberman,an independent who caucuses with Democrats, opposes the public optionand has said he will side with Republicans to block a final vote on anybill that includes one.

Senators Mary Landrieu,Ben Nelson, Evan Bayh and Blanche Lincoln are the other Democrats whoappear to be most resistant to Reid's approach on a public option.

Obama has been meetinglawmakers privately at the White House in an effort to persuade theuncommitted moderates, and Senate leaders have explored possiblealternatives that could keep them on board.

One of those could beRepublican Olympia Snowe's favored approach of a "trigger" that wouldactivate a government plan in states where there is not enoughcompetition in the insurance market.

Snowe is the onlyRepublican in the Senate to back one of the healthcare reform bills ina committee vote, but she has said she will oppose a bill with the"opt-out" public option.

A first-term HouseRepublican, Anh Cao of Louisiana, became the second Republican toendorse the healthcare overhaul on Saturday when he backed the Housebill.

Reid is waiting for theCongressional Budget Office to provide him cost estimates, andDemocrats say a response is not expected until at least late next week.

Reid could be ready topublish the measure and move to floor debate fairly quickly once hegets the estimates, but the Senate will be in recess for a week aroundthe Thanksgiving holiday in late November.

Democratic aides saidthe bill is likely to drop a mandate that all employers offer insuranceto workers or pay a penalty. Differences over the amount of subsidiesoffered to help lower- and middle-income people buy insurance and onthe taxes imposed to pay for the plan must also be overcome.

A floor debate thatcould last several weeks is now expected to begin in the next few weeks.


Once the Senate andHouse have passed separate measures, they will appoint negotiators to aconference committee that will negotiate the differences. Their finalbill must be passed again by the House and Senate.

It is at this stagewhere Obama and White House staffers can become most active inclosed-door negotiations, cementing what they want in a final bill andwhat they think is most likely to pass in each chamber.

A final bill would besent to Obama for his signature, with a goal of finishing work by theend of the year.

Deadlines on the bill have slippedrepeatedly, however, and Reid has raised the possibility that finalaction on the measure could drift into January. (Editing by Arshad Mohammed and Peter Cooney)

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Publicado por Corazon7 @ 17:19
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