Health Care Progress Report: October 5

Updated at 3:50 p.m. ET with information about the timing of the Senate Finance Committee vote.

President Obama has set a year-end deadline for passing comprehensive health care reform, and on a number of occasions has said the nation is "closer than ever before" to making it happen. That may be the case, but there are still a number of significant steps ahead. Special Report: Health Care

As Congress methodically -- and sometimes clumsily-- cobbles together a health care bill that can win enough votes to pass, will track its progress for you. Below is a chart to track the six major steps Washington needs to take to accomplish health care reform. Step six will be easy -- but after months of deliberations, Congress is only just about to clear step one.


More on the progress of health care legislation in each chamber of Congress.

SENATE: Two committees in the Senate have jurisdiction over health care reform. One -- the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee -- passed its relatively liberal bill in July. The Senate Finance Committee is on the verge of voting for its more moderate bill. After seven days of considering hundreds of amendments, the committee wrapped up its deliberations over its health care bill at precisely 2:08 a.m. Friday morning.

The Finance Committee is expected to pass its bill this week -- bringing the Senate up to speed with the House, where three committees have already approved their own versions of health care reform. Most consider it a given that the committee will pass its bill when it votes Tuesday -- but it may be trickier than anticipated.

Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.), conscious some liberal Democrats on his committee were dissatisfied with the relatively moderate bill, made room for some serious modifications to his bill during the amendment process. However, at least two Democrats are indicating they may or may not support the bill, the Washington Post reports.

(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) initially expressed a number of concerns with the Finance Committee bill. After failing to insert a government-run health insurance plan, or "public option," into the bill during the amendment process, he has vowed to fight for the proposal in the next steps of the legislative process.

Additionally, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) was angered that the committee refused to consider his "free choice" amendment, which would have allowed individuals who do not like their employer-based insurance to get a voucher to shop on the new insurance exchange. As the health care reform bill stands, nearly 200 million Americans who receive coverage through an employer would be barred from shopping on the new exchange, Wyden said.

"People don't hold rallies saying, 'Thank you for my exemption,' " he told the Washington Post.

If both Wyden and Rockefeller voted against the bill on Tuesday, assuming the 11 other Democrats voted in favor of it and the 10 Republicans on the committee voted against it, the bill would fail.

Democratic leadership in the Senate wants the committee to wrap up, so it can move onto step two -- creating a single health care bill for the full Senate to consider. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said he expects to bring a health care bill before the full Senate by mid-October.

UPDATE: The Senate may take longer to finalize step one than anticipated. Though the Senate Finance Committee was expected to vote on its health care bill Tuesday, the Associated Press and other news organizations report the committee is pushing back its vote as it continues to wait for a financial assessment of the bill from the Congressional Budget Office. Baucus ensured the other committee members they would be able to review the CBO score before proceeding with a vote on the bill.

(AP Photo/Harry Hamburg)
HOUSE: The House of Representatives is a step ahead of the Senate, with health care legislation approved by all three of its committees with jurisdiction over the issue. Now, House leadership is tinkering with the reform bills behind the scenes, in order to reach step two -- and bring one bill before the full House.

This week, the Hill newspaper reports, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other leaders will address whether they should include new taxes in their legislation or find some other way to pay for reform. Leaders are considering a tax on high-end insurance plans -- a proposal included in Senate legislation but that is not currently found in any of the three House bills.

More than 100 congressmen have reportedly signed a letter, spearheaded by Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), urging Pelosi to forget the tax plan, according to the Hill.

The speaker has run into resistance from moderate Democrats for her consideration of a tax increase for wealthy Americans.

Pelosi will also have to rope in moderates to support a bill with a government-run plan; she has said repeatedly that the House bill will include a public option.

House leadership, like Democrats in the Senate, plan to bring a full bill to the floor in mid-October.