As many Democrats fear that increased Republican opposition as well as Democratic infighting over the public option could spell doom for the bill's chances once Congress returns in September, Jonathan Weisman and Naftali Bendavid report that that the White House and Democratic Senate leaders are considering splitting up the bill into two parts in order to get it passed this year.
Under this scenario, one bill would include the new regulations on insurance companies, such as requiring them not to reject people with preexisting conditions. As conservative opposition to reform has grown at so-called town hall protests this month, President Obama and others have been pushing these regulations as the key lynchpins to reform that would help those with and those without insurance. It is thought these measures could get the more than 60 votes in the Senate needed to survive through any filibuster threat.
The other parts of the plan, including the much-discussed government-sponsored insurance plan known as the "public option," could then go into a second bill that could be passed through a procedure known as reconciliation for budget bill. That bill would only need 51 votes, which would be a much easier threshold for Democrats to muster.
The Journal reports that this strategy could come into play if the Senate Finance Committee is unable to come up with a bipartisan bill as many on the Hill and the administration desire. The paper says those involved in the discussions say there is a 60 percent chance the tactic will be used.
A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said yesterday a decision about whether to use reconciliation for a health care bill has not been made. Bu he also noted that "patience is not unlimited" and that "we are determined to get something done this year by any legislative means necessary," according to the Journal and CNN.