Skeptics (like this blog author) were dumfounded last night when—for the first time in the excruciatingly drawn-out health care reform saga—the Senate Finance Committee came close to meeting a deadline set by Chairman Max Baucus. The deadline—completion of markup of the Committee’s draft bill—wasn’t quite met, but missing it by a mere couple of hours seemed like a major achievement given the more than five hundred amendments that had been proposed.
Of the changes to Baucus’ original draft, most are tweaks, with the most notable being reductions in penalties for non-compliance with the individual mandate (intended to gain support from Senator Olympia Snowe)—along with (thanks to Senator Charles Grassley) a requirement that members of Congress get their own coverage through insurance exchanges.
The next step will be a formal vote next week by the full Finance Committee—with the big question being which way Senator Snowe will go.
And then, the Finance and HELP bills must be merged prior to Senate floor debate—something that will tax Senate leadership, who must struggle to reconcile the public option preferences Absolutely NO versus absolutely YES) of the two committees.
And then, if it survives, the bill faces reconciliation with the House versions…