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January 13, 2010

Rangel: Health Care Negotiations Face "Serious Problems;" No Bill Until February

But most of this is bluster. Same in any negotiation -- both parties have an incentive to claim they're willing to walk away from the table with no deal.

Congressional Democrats face “serious problems” in getting a healthcare reform bill to the president’s desk, according to a House panel chairman.

“We’ve got to get a bill that’s more compatible to the House,” Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) said Tuesday. “Forget all the other questions. Two-hundred-eighteen [votes] is the most important issue we are dealing with… We have serious problems on both sides of the Capitol. Serious problems.”

Rangel’s comments come a day after Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) said health reform is “hanging by a thread.”

Check this out:

Financing the roughly $900 billon cost of the bill stands as possibly the biggest obstacle to final action given how far apart the House and Senate are. Labor unions and their allies among House Democrats remain strongly opposed to the excise tax on high-cost health insurance plans. Obama met with labor leaders Monday and Pelosi sat down with some of the same leaders on Tuesday before gathering her leadership team and her caucus together to seek a way forward.

Although the House bill eschewed the excise tax and liberals have decried it, the provisions in the Senate bill appeal to the centrist contingent of the Democratic caucus as an alternative to an income tax increase. Some health experts say the excise tax will lead to reduced spending on healthcare services.

"I definitely think there’s increasing support in the caucus for some kind of a tax on plans that executives and wealthy people have," said Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.). "This is one of the few cost-containment measures in the bill," he said, echoing the argument made by Obama and senior Senate Democrats. Polis last year successfully pushed for the surtax in the House bill to be lifted to the millionaire level.

Despite the dissatisfaction among many House Democrats with Obama's stance in favor of the excise tax, a solution could be emerging as the president attempts to work out a compromise with organized labor.

Raising the threshold, currently at $8,000 for individuals and $23,000 for families, could be a key component of a revised version of the policy. In addition, Democrats are looking at other modifications, such as exempting existing collective bargaining agreements negotiated by unions and other tweaks to prevent a revolt by labor groups and provide cover to pro-union House Democrats.

Ah. Union-negotiated health care plans would be exempted from the excise tax. How novel -- buying off a specific constituency. This is only the thirtieth time they've done this in the bill.

Let's just cut to the chase and make it official that only Republicans or conservative-leaning independents have to pay higher taxes or have their health-care rationed. Because that is what they are attempting, after all, with all these exclusions for protected allies.

Rangel says no bill until February, which isn't much comfort, as that's less than three weeks away.

Hopefully Brown will win and end this catastrophe.

It might be that Democrats actually want that to happen. At this point they might prefer to lose, so long as they can blame Republicans.

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posted by Ace at 12:57 PM

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