The House Democratic leadership unveiled its health care bill this morning. Some details:
The bill -- a combination of versions passed by three House committees -- includes what is termed a "negotiated rate" public option. It will cost $894 billion over 10 years and extend insurance coverage to 36 million Americans, according to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office.
The bill guarantees that 96 percent of Americans have coverage, Pelosi's office said. The figure is based on an analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
One of the main differences between the House bill and the Senate Finance committee bill is that a significant portion of funding comes from a surtax on wealthy households, rather than on high-cost health care plans (which mainly target unions)
The new bill, like an earlier version, retains a surtax on high-income people, but increases the thresholds. The tax would hit married couples with adjusted gross incomes exceeding $1 million a year and individuals over $500,000 - just three-tenths of 1 percent of all households, Democrats said.
Expect this funding mechanism to make it through to the final bill, given that the tax on high-cost health insurance plans has fewer supporters in 2the House than single-payer. If the Baucus funding mechanism is sent back to the House after the conference committee, then the entire bill will go down to defeat.
The Progressive Caucus appears to be moving toward an amendment strategy, rather than a defeat the whole bill strategy. They will make this case today in a meeting with President Obama:
"I will insist on a Medicare-plus-5 [percent] amendment on the floor so that the full caucus can vote on it. We are hopeful that the Rules Committee will allow this amendment, which has tremendous public support, to be voted on for the record."
They will also get a chance Thursday to press their case for a public option in the final bill to Obama in a White House meeting. Many liberals have been irritated by Obama's wavering on the necessity of a public option.
Asked if her caucus would be prepared to balk at supporting a public option with negotiated rates - a threat they made in writing at the beginning of July - Grijalva's fellow co-chairwoman, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), said: "When we see what the bill says, we'll decide if we can support it."
Woolsey added that while Progressives don't intend to sign off on just anything that's handed to them, "this isn't walk-away time."
The problem with an amendment strategy is that the House leadership will likely not allow many, if any, amendments to be offered on the House floor. The reason is because of Bart Stupak, who is trying to defeat the entire bill by rounding up 40 House Democrats to demand that none of the insurance plans receiving subsidies in the exchange are allowed to cover abortions. If such an amendment passes--and the leadership believes that it would if offered on the floor--then the entire bill goes down to defeat, since it will lose the votes of dozens of pro-choice Democrats. As such, the leadership is going not going to allow any amendments, and make Stupak's only move to try and prevent the bill from going to the floor at all. It is unlikely he will succeed.
Floor amendments are approved by the House Rules committee. As such, the next step in the fight will be fought there. The committee is generally thought of as an extension of the leadership, so those fights may already be a foregone conclusion. Still, look for Representatives Stupak, Grijalva, and Weiner to try and get their amendments on restricted abortion funding, a vote on Medicare +5 rates, and single-payer to the floor.