Next Steps in the Health Care Debate

The health care debate will be in full swing when more than 70 Indiana business representatives converge on Washington (see earlier post) in midweek for the D.C. Fly-in.

Markups (committee review of a proposed bill before it is reported out to the full House or Senate) will occur in both chambers. The Senate Finance Committee takes up chairman Max Baucus’ work that appeared to make no one happy upon its release last week and the House Energy and Commerce Committee takes care of some unfinished business.

The Senate Finance Committee will begin Tuesday, with both parties attempting to make changes to the $774 billion measure. The affordability of health insurance premiums is one of the primary cost concerns.

On the business side, there are a variety of fees and taxes, including a $4 billion annual tax on medical device companies. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions ranking member Michael Enzi prepared more than 20 amendments for the markup, including one on the medical devices tax.

The Heritage Foundation offers a brief but pointed analysis of the Baucus plan, calling it "more of the same" and identifying "seven fatal flaws."

Meanwhile, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will begin a second health reform markup Wednesday, concluding business left unfinished this summer.

The committee reported out its version of the health care overhaul on July 31, but only because members agreed not to offer any more amendments. Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman assured Republicans and Democrats that the still-pending amendments — 55 in all — would be considered at a second markup this fall.

The changes will form a second, separate bill and will be combined with the overhaul in the Rules Committee.

Confused yet? Join the crowd. The Indiana business attendees and Chamber staff will seek some clarity from the nation’s capital.

Getting Some Work in Before Recess

When young students take a daily break from their learning activities, it’s called recess. When members of Congress take scheduled breaks from activities in Washington, the same name applies. There must be a joke in there somewhere.

Anyway, the next recess for Congress is from June 29-July 3. That leaves this week to tackle the ongoing list of weighty issues. What is on the agenda?

  • Climate change legislation is not expected to make it to the House floor despite the wishes of Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman. He says a lack of trust for the "farm community" toward the Environmental Protection Agency is among the roadblocks
  • The House is expected to pass a $680 billion defense authorization bill for fiscal year 2010. Controversy includes the issue of transferring military prisoners from Guantanamo Bay to U.S. soil
  • Health care reform debate goes on with the Senate committee amending its 600-page bill and three House committees looking at an 852-page offering (some of this paper could probably be put to better use in the schools)
  • A high-level White House meeting on immigration reform is expected Thursday. Who knows what will emerge from that gathering

I really need some assistance with that "recess" punch line. HELP!