Will Dems Give Up on Health Care?

(AP)
Democrats in Congress continue to mull over the few options they have for dealing with their health care bill, with some suggesting that abandoning it all together is not an entirely bad option.

In a speech about Congress' 2010 agenda he delivered this morning, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Democrats have four options for health care reform -- all with "pluses and minuses."

"As I see it, we have four options. The first is to not pass a bill," Hoyer said. "The second is to try to pass a smaller bill that will make some very modest improvements for Americans — assuming that Republicans want to work with us. The third is for the House to pass the Senate's bill as-is. And the fourth is for the House to pass the Senate bill and both chambers to pass a 'fixes' bill to bridge their differences on issues such as affordability and funding. All of these choices have pluses and minuses."

Democrats are taking their time to consider the options, he said, hear from their constituents and consider the implications of the Senate special election results in Massachusetts.

"There are no easy choices," Hoyer said. "But the objective of accessible, affordable, quality health care remains."

Moderate Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh suggested today it is time for Democrats to move on from health care, Politico reports.

"No one has determined a good path forward yet on health care, so rather than sit here and do nothing, we ought to cut taxes on small businesses to create jobs," he said.

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Democratic leaders, however, are still devising plans to pass the bill. White House is focusing on the fourth option laid out by Hoyer, the New York Times reports, in which the House passes the Senate bill and then both chambers pass a "fix it" bill via a process known as reconciliation. That process only requires a 51-vote majority in the Senate.

The party is unlikely to have a plan in time for President Obama's State of the Union address on Wednesday night, Politico reports, but are in the process of considering ways to change the Senate bill through reconciliation. Some of those changes could reportedly include increased subsidies, Medicare cuts and increasing the Medicare payroll and unearned income tax for some.

A few moderate Democrats, Sens. Ben Nelson and Evan Bayh, have said they do not support the reconciliation process, and Sen. Blanche Lincoln said in a statement today "opposed to and will fight against any attempts to push through changes to the Senate health insurance reform legislation by using budget reconciliation tactics." However, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid could afford to lose as many as nine Democratic votes in the reconciliation process, considering that Vice President Joe Biden could cast the tie-breaking 51st vote.

Many significant provisions are now back in play as Democrats rethink their strategy, especially with reconciliation as an option. Progressive advocacy groups are even pushing for a revival of the public option, highlighting statistics showing that Massachusetts voters who cast their ballot for Mr. Obama in 2008 but GOP Sen.-elect Scott Brown this year overwhelmingly support the public option.

House and Senate leaders meet this afternoon, and House leaders will meet with their caucus this evening to "get a sense of where members stand after spending three days sounding out constituents," Talking Points Memo reports.