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Sen. Baucus, without Senators Rockefeller, Wyden and Snowe Now does not Have the Votes to Pass the Bill Out of Committee

The words tax/taxes and fine/fines appear in the Senator Baucus bill 243 times.

There are Not Enough Votes for the Baucus Bill to be Voted Out of the Finance Committee

Without Senators Wyden, Rockefeller and Snowe, Chairman Baucus does not have the votes to pass the bill out of the Senate Finance Committee.

This means there will be horse trading a-go-go and the results will be interesting.

Senators Wyden and Rockefeller are most upset about no public option being in the plan.

CBO Scores Senate Finance Committee Bill at $500 Billion — No increase in the Deficit

The Congressional Budget Office has scored the Senate Finance Committee bill at a cost of $500 Billion with a net deficit reduction of $49 billion because of the taxes and cuts to Medicare.

Sen. Rockefeller (D-WV) and Finance Committee Member says Senate Bill has a “Big, Big Tax”

Senator Rockefeller warning of a “big, big tax” on the middle class to pay for ObamaCare is very, very strange.

It would be like a staunch Republican warning that a planned tax cut is too big.

The only conclusion that can be reached is that health care reform has so stressed and strained Members of Congress and their constituents that these stresses are manifesting themselves in very, uh, unique ways.

Here is how ABC News reports the Sen. Rockefeller view:

“It’s not every day that you hear a Democratic senator charge that a fellow Democrat is proposing to raise taxes on the middle class, but that is what happened on Tuesday when Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., ripped into the health-care bill developed by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mt., the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

The Baucus proposal would impose, starting in 2013, a 35 percent excise tax on insurance companies for “high-cost plans” — defined as those above $8,000 for individuals and $21,000 for family plans.

Health economists believe a tax on high-priced benefits could help slow the growth of health costs by making consumers more sensitive to prices.

The tax contemplated by Baucus is also a big revenue raiser. It is expected to raise $200 billion, money that Baucus is hoping to use to pay for subsidies for the uninsured.

Given how much money this kind of tax can raise, Rockefeller says he understands why it is “tempting.”

The West Virginia Democrat worries, however, that a lot of middle class workers, like the coal miners in his state, will end up facing “a big, big tax” under the Baucus bill because they currently enjoy generous employer-provided health care benefits which they receive tax free.”

The real question is if Senator Rockefeller is trashing the Baucus bill with the blessings or winks and nods of the White House — who were against such a tax in the Presidential election campaign.

Axelrod Meets with House and Senate Dems to Stress “Unity”

In an environment where Democrats have seen their generic ballot advantage go south, Obama’s approval rating drop faster than any modern president, and the real anger in the country about this health care plan, does Axelrod really think that just because he meets with Members of Congress and implores them to toe the party line, that they actually will — especially after there have been heated arguments and attacks made by the White House on some members, in whose states and districts the White House ran television ads?

There is speculation that the White House has not — shall we say — disciplined or otherwise put the brakes on Sen. Rockefeller’s attacks on the Baucus plan — leaving some to wonder if unity is just another way of saying you must agree with us.

And everything is going to be OK now?

Here is how The Hill reported the Axelrod meeting:

Faced with the prospect of having to pass legislation without Republican votes, Obama’s chief political adviser David Axelrod met with Senate and House Democrats on Tuesday to stress the importance of party unity on healthcare reform — a message most directly aimed at centrists who now are critical to its passage.

Democrats control 59 seats in the Senate. Without a single Republican vote, they would be forced to advance healthcare using a budgetary maneuver that requires only a simple majority.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday that Democrats are prepared to use budget reconciliation as a last resort.

Without Snowe and without the Kennedy seat appointment, the Democrats cannot get to 60 votes to shut off debate — end the coming filibuster — and even if they use reconcilation, they can only pass Medicare cuts and tax increases, not the actual legislation — if the Senate Parliamentarian does not change the rules mid-game.

No wonder Axelrod was calling State House and Senate members imploring them to give Obama a Senator.

17% of Seniors Died after Terminal Sedation in England (save money, kill Seniors)

From the WSJ:

The recent outbreak of National Health Service jingoism — brought on by British Labor Party members bragging about how superior the British system was to the American system,

“was brought to an abrupt halt by the Patients Association, an independent charity. In a report, the association presented a catalogue of end-of-life cases that demonstrated, in its words, “a consistent pattern of shocking standards of care.” It provided details of what it described as “appalling treatment,” which could be found across the NHS.

A few days later, a group of senior doctors and health-care experts wrote to a national newspaper expressing their concern about the Liverpool Care Pathway, a palliative program being rolled out across the NHS involving the withdrawal of fluids and nourishment for patients thought to be dying. Noting that in 2007-08, 16.5% of deaths in the U.K. came after “terminal sedation,” their letter concluded with the chilling observation that experienced doctors know that sometimes “when all but essential drugs are stopped, ‘dying’ patients get better” if they are allowed to.

The usual justification for socialized health care is to provide access to quality health care for the poor and disadvantaged. But this function can be more efficiently performed through the benefits system and the payment of refundable tax credits.

The real justification for socialized medicine is left unstated: Because health-care resources are assumed to be fixed, those resources should be prioritized for those who can benefit most from medical treatment. Thus the NHS acts as Britain’s national triage service, deciding who is most likely to respond best to treatment and allocating health care accordingly.”


Chairman Rangel: Passing Health Care is Harder After Obama’s Speech

From the Associated Press:

Taken off guard, Democrats at work on health care legislation are grappling with President Barack Obama’s nationally televised insistence on immediate access to insurance for those with pre-existing medical conditions, as well as richer Medicare prescription drug benefits than originally envisioned.Additionally, Obama’s pledge to hold the overall cost of legislation to about $900 billion over a decade has spread concern among House Democrats, who have long contemplated a costlier measure.

Yet another late complication, according to several Democrats, is the president’s statement that he will not sign a bill “if it adds one dime to the deficit, now or in the future, period. And to prove that I’m serious, there will be a provision in this plan that requires us to come forward with more spending cuts if the savings we promised don’t materialize.”

The $900 billion target is “very difficult,” Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, told reporters. “This is reducing coverage for poor and working people.” He spoke of other “restrictions the president has given in his speech.”

Cook: Dems Fractured into three Camps

Charlie Cook parses the Democratic Party splits with regard to health care in the National Journal.

Obama loyalists:

1. Never back down on health care;
2. Any political problems Obama has are caused by the economy, which will turn around. If it does not turn around, Dems are in big trouble anyway and we should do health care now, regardless.

Purists:

1. Compromise on health care is weakness and appeasement.
2. They see anything short of a public option as unacceptable.

Skeptics:

1. View the expansion of government power and spending as the real source of Dem political problems.
2. Believe that the economy turning around will not solve these deeper political problems based on the size and scope of the government.

Cook telegraphs that there is so much bad blood between the loyalists and the skeptics that:

“the Loyalist notion that a dozen or so Blue Dogs might be expendable ignores the fact that a political environment that culls the Democratic herd in the House would very likely cost Democrats two to four senators, people whose votes are anything but expendable. Right now, seven Democratic Senate seats are vulnerable — eight if GOP Rep. Michael Castle runs for the open seat in Delaware.”


ABC News: Rockefeller and Wyden “livid” over Senate Finance Bill

George Stephanopoulos:

“Following up on his This Week appearance where he promised to fight on for the public option, Sen. Jay Rockefeller blasted the draft bill produced by Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus: “there is no way in its present form that I vote for it unless it changes in the amendment process by vast amounts.”

“He’s not alone. Fellow Finance Committee member Ron Wyden is livid too. Expect a rocky mark-up next week, especially if Olympia Snowe fails to sign on to the Baucus bill this week. As one top Democrat told me, the fundamental problem is that Democrats “are being asked to support a bipartisan bill that doesn’t have bipartisan support.” The compromise without the cover.”


USA Today/Gallup Poll: The Steep Hill for ObamaCare

From USA Today:

“A USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken after the president’s dramatic address to a joint session of Congress last week shows Americans almost evenly divided over passing a health care bill and inclined to think it would make some of the system’s vexing problems worse, not better.

“Six in 10 say Obama’s proposal, if enacted, would not achieve his goals of expanding coverage to nearly all Americans without raising taxes on the middle class or lowering the quality of health care. For the first time, a majority disapprove of the way he’s handling health care policy….

“The findings underscore the steep climb ahead for the White House in trying to push a health care plan through the House and Senate during the next few weeks. Some major provisions, including how to pay for it and whether to include a government-run plan as an option, haven’t been settled.

“The president’s speech apparently failed to galvanize public opinion in the way the White House had hoped. While it drew a national television audience estimated by Nielsen at more than 32 million people, there’s little evidence in the survey that it changed minds.

“Obama’s approval rating is 54%, the same as in two USA TODAY polls in August; 43% disapprove, the highest of his presidency.

”The approval rating for congressional Democrats is a dismal 36%-61%. It’s even worse for congressional Republicans: 27% approve, 70% disapprove.”


President Obama Wants to Tax Health Benefits and Cap Medicare to Pay for ObamaCare

Capretta:

“It’s pretty clear at this point that Pres. Obama will do just about anything to get a health-care bill to his desk this year. It remains to be seen if he is so persuasive that he can convince his fellow Democrats that they are better off endorsing taxation of health benefits and a cap on Medicare than compromising with Republicans.“

Brooks in the NYT: The President has Accepted Taxing Health Care Benefits

Brooks:

“the president accepted the principle of capping the tax exemption on employer-provided health benefits. The specific proposal he embraced is a backdoor and indirect version of the cap. But what’s important here is the movement and the concession on principle. Soon moderates and Republicans will produce amendments to impose a cap directly. These amendments will credibly raise revenue and reduce costs. The administration will now have no principled argument to reject them.”


Brooks in the NYT: The President Killed the House ObamaCare Bill in his Speech

Brooks:

”Obama rested the credibility of his presidency on what you might call the Dime Standard. He was flexible about many things, but not this: “I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits — either now or in the future. Period.”

This sound bite kills the House health care bill. That bill would add $220 billion (that’s 2.2 trillion dimes) to the deficit over the first 10 years and another $1 trillion (10 trillion dimes) to the deficit over the next 10 years.

There is no way to get from the House bill to deficit neutrality. The president’s speech guarantees that the more moderate Senate Finance Committee bill will be the basis for the negotiations to come.

The Dime Standard also sets off a political cascade. Since the Congressional Budget Office is the universally accepted arbiter in such matters, the Democrats have to produce a bill that the C.B.O. says is deficit-neutral, now and forever. That means there will be a seller’s market for any member of Congress, Republican or Democrat, who has a credible amendment to cut costs. It also means the Democrats will have to scale back coverage and subsidy levels to reach the fiscal targets.”

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