Ignoring Republicans call to start from scratch on health care legislation, President Obama is putting forward a bill of his own meant to serve as a compromise between the House and Senate bills.
"The president believes that starting from scratch doesn't make sense," said White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer, briefing reporters on a conference call this morning.
An outline of the president's proposal is available here and posted on the White House Web site, and is meant to represent the position Mr. Obama will take at the bipartisan summit he'll host Thursday on health care legislation.
His plan calls for:
• increased tax credits to help families afford health insurance.
• a ban on denial of health coverage to those with pre-existing conditions.
• closing the so-called "donut hole" in Medicare prescription drug coverage
• creation of a Health Insurance Rate Authority to pushback against "excessive" hikes in health insurance premiums.
The president's measure will also eliminate the special exemption that was to be given the state of Nebraska in exchange for the vote of that state's Sen. Ben Nelson (D).
Like the House and Senate versions, the president's bill is compulsory – requiring all Americans to be covered by health insurance. Unlike the House version, there is no "public option" that will allow anyone to buy health insurance from the government.
The White House has no reason to believe that Republicans will go along with the president's plan any more than they did the Democratic versions in the House or Senate.
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In fact, the White House may be counting on that. If the GOP remains opposed to a massive overhaul of the health insurance system, it will free Democrats to seek to enact most portions of the president's bill through the process of reconciliation which requires only a 51-vote simple majority, rather than a 60-vote super-majority to cut off a filibuster.
Following the release of the president's proposal, House Republican Leader John Boehner slammed it in a statement.
"This new Democrats-only backroom deal doubles down on the same failed approach that will drive up premiums, destroy jobs, raise taxes, and slash Medicare benefits," he said.
In the Senate, Democrats no longer have a 60 vote caucus they can count on, since the election of Republican Sen. Scott Brown from Massachusetts.
President Obama has made health care reform his top domestic priority. He had hoped to get it enacted last year, but remains determined to keep trying this year – even though polls tell him the American people are more concerned about jobs and economic growth.