Senate Leaders Begin Difficult Task of Merging Health Care Reform Bills

Posted on October 14, 2009. Filed under: health care | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

All eyes are on Senate Majority Leader Reid, who has said he wants to complete the wedding quickly and get historic health care overhaul legislation onto the floor the week after next.

WASHINGTON — Health care talks slip back behind closed doors Wednesday as Senate leaders start trying to merge two very different bills into a new version that can get the 60 votes needed to guarantee its passage.

All eyes are on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, who has said he wants to complete the wedding quickly and get historic health care overhaul legislation onto the floor the week after next.

Both bills were written by Democrats, but that’s not going to make it easier for Reid. They share a common goal, which is to provide all Americans with access to affordable health insurance, but they differ on how to accomplish it.

The Finance Committee bill that was approved Tuesday has no government-sponsored insurance plan and no requirement on employers that they must offer coverage. It relies instead on a requirement that all Americans obtain insurance.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee bill, passed earlier by a panel in which liberals predominate, calls for both a government plan to compete with private insurers and a mandate that employers help cover their workers. Those are only two of dozens of differences.

President Barack Obama acknowledges it’s not going to be easy. Speaking Tuesday in the Rose Garden, Obama called the 14-9 Finance Committee vote “a critical milestone” toward getting a health care overhaul this year. The legislation won its first Republican support when Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine broke ranks with her party, saying she was answering the call of history.

Obama wasn’t ready to bask in the bipartisan glow.

“Now is not the time to pat ourselves on the back,” he said. “Now is the time to dig in and work even harder.”

There was no victory lap either for Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus of Montana. “The bottom line here is we need a final bill, a merged bill, that gets 60 votes,” he said. “Our goal is to pass health care reform, not just talk about it.”

Read the rest @ FoxNews.com

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