Congress Returns from Recess: What’s Next?
Members of both the House and Senate are scheduled to return to Washington September 8th from the August recess. When congress adjourned August 7th they were debating healthcare reform in both chambers. There are three healthcare reform bills that will now resume debate, two in the Senate and one in the House.
What’s Next for Healthcare Reform?
The Senate Finance Committee Bill: The Finance Committee met over the recess and will resume debate when congress reconvenes. Sen.Max Baucus (D-ND), Chairman of the Finance Committee, and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), Ranking Member of the committee, have been working as part of a bipartisan group of six that includes Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND), and Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), who rank No. 3 and 4 in seniority on the Democratic side, Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), and Sen. Michael Enzi (R-WY). This bill is expected to be completed soon after recess, and be the only bipartisan proposal.
The House Tri-Committee Bill: Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said they want to bring their bill (being referred to as the Tri-Committee Bill House because it was drafted among the three House Committees; Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, and Education and Labor) to a vote after the recess as soon as they negotiate the amendments added by the three committees. Energy and Commerce completed their markup during the last week before the recess began.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP): The HELP committee approved its version of a reform bill, The Affordable Health Choices Act, on July 15th. The bill aims to make health coverage and care more affordable. It does so in a number of ways, most notably, by providing substantial subsidies for insurance premiums, as well as out-of-pocket protections. This bill will need to be negotiated, along with the final Finance Committee bill, into one.
Once each chamber has passed their version of Healthcare Reform, House and Senate Leadership will meet in conference to negotiate a compromise bill between each chambers proposed legislation. If then that compromise legislation passes both chambers, it would then be sent to the White House for the president’s signature into law.