That's the scuttle, according to Fox News.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Monday President Obama will soon propose a health care bill that will be "much smaller" than the House bill but "big enough" to put the country on a "path" toward health care reform. A senior administration official told Fox Obama's proposal will be introduced Wednesday.
"In a matter of days, we will have a proposal," Pelosi said, pointing to Obama's forthcoming bill. "It will be a much smaller proposal than we had in the House bill, because that's where we can gain consensus. But it will be big enough to put us on a path of affordable, quality health care for all Americans that holds insurance companies accountable."
Melody Barnes, a top Obama domestic policy adviser, did not dispute Pelosi's characterization of the new plan as smaller in scope - and quite possibly in cost - than either the House or Senate health care bills.
"It's going to be matter of drawing on these different ideas and coming up with the right proposal," Barnes said in an exclusive interview with Fox. "That's what my colleagues are working on. That's what they're talking with Congress about. We'll see what it looks like when the proposal is sent forward."
Asked how White House staff is putting the new proposal together, Barnes said they are "borrowing" from conversations at Thursday's health care summit.
"We're going to be borrowing from those conversations ... to come up with a bill that we hope can receive bipartisan support," Barnes said.
When asked if White House staff, as Press Secretary Robert Gibbs indicated Friday, would work on GOP ideas for health reform over the weekend, Barnes identified two: tort reform and allowing insurers to sell policies across state lines.
Well, it's about time. Obama could have saved himself a wasted year — and perhaps saved Ted Kennedy's Senate seat for the Democrats — by doing this sometime in early 2009. That's what president's normally do when they'd like to enact major reforms: They submit a bill that lays out clear priorities, and then lets Congress mess around with it, but not too much. Instead, he let Pelosi and Reid come up with a plan from scratch that turned into the monstrosity that polls show the American people are overwhelmingly against.
Time will tell if this last-ditch effort to save his No. 1 domestic priority will bear fruit. But if Obama is expecting this bill to be "fast-tracked," he's kidding himself. If Obama really wants what he presents Wednesday to be passed, it has to start winding its way through the legislative process all over again — which means it needs to be taken up by several relevant committees in both chambers, get debated, marked up, sent to the floor, debated again, voted on, and, if passed, have the differences reconciled in a conference committee. Oh, and it would have to survive a filibuster in the new 59-41 Dem/GOP ratio in the Senate.
Yes. Important legislation can be passed in a matter of a few weeks. The Patriot Act comes to mind, but that's hardly a model Democrats can defend considering they've complained for years that it was passed and signed into law too quickly (while nonetheless passing up nearly every opportunity to correct the abuses and errors they say are in the law). One could argue that The Patriot Act was an "emergency," necessary to equip the federal government to respond to the threat of international terrorism that hit home on 9/11. What's the emergency here to get health care reform passed? That Democrats might lose their majority in eight months? No sale.
Also, the devil will be in the details. While I'm encouraged to see that Obama appears to be on board with malpractice insurance reform and allowing interstate health insurance sales, those proposals have to be substantive. Allowing a Californian to purchase health insurance plans that people in Arizona buy is meaningless if California's rules for what must be covered in a plan still hold. And we must also see what is in Obama's plan. A lot of it could still be objectionable (in fact, I'm counting on it).
Will Obama's plan be honest in its cost, free of the trick of "scoring" it with 10 years of tax increases but six years of benefits to make it "revenue neutral" but phony? Will the Medicare "Doc Fix" be included so it reflects the real cost of "reform"? Those are key questions. And if it also includes the vast federal bureaucracies to micromanage the health insurance market from Washington, I don't see Republicans getting on board. Not now.
The irony is that if Obama proposed his own "much smaller" bill in February 2009, he'd probably have his "health care reform" already — and with enough Republican support to truly call it bipartisan. But only now, in an incredibly weak position, is Obama reaching his hand up toward Republicans asking to be saved — the same Republicans he treated with contempt for 12 months. I would not be surprised if Republicans decline to pull him up and save his political bacon ... and take their chances with voters in November while carrying the label of "obstructionists."
(HT: The Corner)