Battle lines being drawn between Senate, House Dems on health

The Senate is heading toward Christmas Eve passage of a massive health care bill, but Democratic leaders signaled it will still see changes when it is merged with a House version in January, perhaps affecting how people would be taxed under the plan.

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, an architect of the Senate bill, said he does not anticipate the House will simply sign off on the Senate health care plan, projected to cost $871 billion in its first 10 years.

“It will be a meaningful conference,” Harkin said, describing the traditional House-Senate meetings in which legislation is combined.

In the pre-dawn hours Monday, the Senate passed a bill that would expand Medicaid, the health care program for poor Americans, and would have the federal government offer access to group rates on private insurance policies to Americans who don't have insurance through their jobs. The bill would also require that Americans buy private insurance and force many employers to provide coverage.

The bill is far different from a version passed last month in the House, which costs more than $1 trillion for the first decade and calls for the creation of a government-run insurance plan.

Harkin said the Senate could compromise on the method of raising taxes. The House bill includes a 5.4 percent surtax on individuals earning more than $500,000 and couples whose incomes exceed $1 million. In the Senate version, expensive insurance plans are taxed at 40 percent.

“There is some room for negotiation in that area as we go into conference,” Harkin said.

Specifically, Harkin said there may be changes to the Senate plan to tax so-called “Cadillac plans” worth more than $8,500 for individuals and $23,000 for families. The tax is particularly unpopular with unions because many of their members would be hit with the tax and many House members want to get rid of it.

Many House liberals are opposed to language added Saturday imposing tighter restrictions on the funding of abortion and most of the 80-plus members of the House Progressive Caucus want the final bill to include a government-run plan.

“They are making it impossible for me to see any kind of middle ground that would work for the American people,” Progressive Caucus co-chairwoman Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., told The Examiner.

Former Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin suggested the two sides may not be able to come to agreement without strong-arming from the White House, which will also have to use its influence to secure congressional approval for additional troops in Afghanistan, which liberals also oppose.

“Where are they going to spend their political capital,” Holtz-Eagen said. “That is the question the White House is going to have to answer.”

sferrechio@washingtonexaminer.com

PoliticsUSwashington examiner

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

The City requires the recycling or reuse of debris material removed from a construction project site. <ins>(Emma Chiang/Special to S.F. Examiner)</ins>
<ins></ins>
Permits proposed for haulers of construction debris to achieve zero-waste

San Francisco plans to tighten regulations on the disposal of construction and… Continue reading

(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/TNS)
Newsom says California will review FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccines before releasing to public

By Taryn Luna Los Angeles Times California will review the safety of… Continue reading

Rachael Tanner, left, testifies virtually before the Board of Supervisors Rules Committee Monday, October 19, 2020. (SFGOV courtesy art)
Rachael Tanner set to become SF’s next Planning Commissioner

Rachael Tanner is expected to serve as the newest member of the… Continue reading

People exercise along the closed Great Highway on Friday, Oct. 2, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Could the Great Highway become a great city park?

Permanent closure would require extensive public outreach, safety and traffic management plans

Flames and smoke overtake a tree as the LNU Lightning Complex fire spreads in Fairfield, California on August 19, 2020. (JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)
Many wildfires near full containment, but officials fear continuing hot weather

By Molly Burke The Sacramento Bee Thousands of firefighters continue to battle… Continue reading

Most Read