Democrats, who no longer have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, are weighing the use of a budget rule called reconciliation to pass at least part of the long-debated health overhaul package with a simple majority.
The drive on Capitol Hill to create a bipartisan commission to help “bend the cost curve” of health spending is picking up momentum - Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and a handful of moderate Democrats and Republicans are supporting the effort.
Republicans in the House of Representatives have legislation they say is a less expensive alternative to the Democrats' health overhaul bill. They plan to introduce it as an amendment in the next week.
With growing signs that health reform bills would do little to "bend the cost curve," Sens. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., and Kent Conrad, D-N.D., want a bipartisan commission to control future Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security costs.
Although negotiators are considering various forms of a public option as they try to meld health overhaul bills approved by two Senate panels, Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., says it's unlikely the Senate would approve major legislation this year that includes a pure form of the controversial government-operated insurance program.
The Senate Finance Committee could begin work on a health overhaul bill as early as next week.
Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Finance Committee, says that mounting public concern about the federal deficit and government spending could hurt prospects for a bipartisan health care overhaul deal when Congress returns to work next month.
Congressional leaders are considering invoking rarely used budget rules that would allow a health reform bill to be passed by a simple majority. But the technique could backfire and leave key provisions of the overhaul legislation vulnerable to Republican challenge.
If Democratic leaders and the White House use “reconciliation” budget rules this fall to try to pass health overhaul legislation without Republican support, how would it work?
Although some Democratic party stalwarts still urge administration to hold out for a comprehensive health care bill, others say a defeat in Congress could be politically disastrous.