Capitol Hillbillies

Can Harry Reid deliver on health care reform?

Forget mission accomplished. Try mission seemingly impossible.

With the Senate Finance Committee on the verge of approving a sweeping health overhaul bill Tuesday, the path might appear open for action by the full Senate.

Not so fast.

First the Finance Committee bill must be combined with a more liberal version that the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee wrapped up this summer. This merger is so rare that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has never attempted it on any piece of legislation — much less one as complex as President Barack Obama’s top legislative priority. The senator from Searchlight, Nev., will need plenty of guiding light.

Health care bill could increase Medicare costs

Medicare recipients could see higher premiums for prescription drug coverage as a result of changes to complex provisions in a Senate health care bill, a senior Republican said Friday.

At issue are marching orders for a powerful new commission that would recommend annual Medicare savings to Congress. Those recommendations would go into effect unless overruled by lawmakers.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said an amendment approved by the Finance Committee in the pre-dawn hours Friday would allow the commission to recommend changes leading to higher Medicare prescription drug premiums. The Democratic amendment was approved on a 13-10 party line vote.

Dems to GOP: Where’s your plan?

Even as Republicans pummel President Barack Obama’s health care proposals, some GOP leaders worry their party is being hurt by a Democratic counterattack: Where is your plan?

Republican leaders chose not to draft their own comprehensive bill, focusing instead on attacking Democrats’ plans as too costly and bureaucratic. Some prominent Republicans now fear they are getting tagged as the “party of no,” and they want the GOP to offer more solutions to the nation’s health care problems.

Health care bill could hit House, Senate floors mid-month

Historic health care legislation could be on the floor of both houses of Congress as early as mid-October as Democrats work to answer President Barack Obama’s call for greater protections for those who have unreliable insurance or no coverage at all.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Wednesday the Senate debate could begin the week of Columbus Day, Oct. 12, even though lawmakers are scheduled to be on vacation at the time.

Democratic aides said the House was working on roughly the same timetable, although after months of missed deadlines, neither House Speaker Nancy Pelosi nor Reid would provide a detailed schedule.

Debate in the Senate could take weeks, compared with mere days in the House.

Reid angers fellow Democrats with Medicare ploy

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid moved swiftly to ensure that his home state of Nevada wouldn’t be hurt by Medicaid changes included in the health care reform bill moving through the Senate Finance Committee.

Now some of his Democratic colleagues are demanding the same treatment for their states.

“We have to make sure Colorado is treated fairly,” Democratic Colorado Sen. Mark Udall said Wednesday.

“We’re going to take a look at the details, but if Colorado has a fair claim on being treated the same way Nevada has been, of course we’re going to ask to have that kind of treatment.”

Senate committee rejects public option

A Senate panel on Tuesday rejected a government-run “public” insurance option as part of a broad healthcare overhaul, handing insurers an early victory and setting the stage for a long fight over one of the bill’s most contentious issues.

The two votes in the Senate Finance Committee were the first of several battles expected in Congress over a public insurance option, a flashpoint in the raging debate over President Barack Obama’s top domestic priority.

The panel’s Democratic chairman, Max Baucus, opposed both amendments and said Democrats could not muster the 60 Senate votes needed to clear Republican procedural hurdles and pass a healthcare reform bill if it includes the public option.

Long, nasty fight looms for health care reform

A sweeping health overhaul bill has survived a major challenge from the left, but onslaughts loom from the right on thorny issues including abortion and insurance coverage for illegal immigrants.

Liberal Democrats failed in two efforts Tuesday to include a government-run insurance option in the legislation before the Senate Finance Committee. Finance is the last of five congressional panels completing work on President Barack Obama’s No. 1 domestic priority, a top-to-bottom reshaping of the U.S. health care system to hold down costs and extend coverage to the uninsured.

Wall Street spending big to buy Congress

Wall Street has spent close to $11 million this year to buy votes in the Senate and the vote it covets most comes from New York Democratic Senator Charles Schumer.

Schumer has pocketed $1.65 million in campaign contributions from the financial industry — more than twice the amount to other Democrats and 500 percent more than contributions to any Republican.

While spending by big business is down in recession-driven economy, it’s clear the boys with the bucks are counting on Democrats to save their bacon in the halls of Congress.

Senate Republicans take a hike on torture probe

Senate Republicans on Friday pulled out of a bipartisan investigation into controversial “war on terror” detentions and interrogations, including tactics widely condemned as torture.

The move by the opposition party dealt a sharp blow to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s efforts to find out exactly what methods were used when and whether they paid off — without prosecuting witnesses or agents thought to have committed abuses.

Senator Kit Bond, the panel’s top Republican, blamed Attorney General Eric Holder’s investigation into alleged CIA abuse of detainees, which he said made it impossible for current or former CIA officials to work with the committee.

Republicans bash Democrats over health care bill

Republicans say Democrats have ignored the public’s concerns in drafting new health care legislation under debate in the Senate Finance Committee.

Democrats are giving the public anything but an “open, honest and bipartisan debate,” Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., said in the GOP’s weekly radio and Internet address.

The Finance Committee is the last of five congressional committees to take up health care legislation, which tops President Barack Obama’s domestic agenda.

Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., negotiated with top Republicans on the panel for weeks before talks broke down. Baucus’ bill leaves out a primary demand of many Democrats — that reform include a government insurance option — and it has a lower price tag than other Democratic proposals.