Health Care Reform Might Be Split into Two Bills

Once again, following the blogs has given the first hint of something to make the news. I recently cited bloggers discussing a change of strategy on passing health care reform–dividing the legislation into two parts and use budget reconciliation to pass part. The Wall Street Journal now discusses this possibility:

Most legislation in the Senate requires 60 votes to overcome a filibuster, but certain budget-related measures can pass with 51 votes through a parliamentary maneuver called reconciliation.

In recent days, Democratic leaders have concluded they can pack more of their health overhaul plans under this procedure, congressional aides said. They might even be able to include a public insurance plan to compete with private insurers, a key demand of the party’s liberal wing, but that remains uncertain.

Other parts of the Democratic plan would be put to a separate vote in the Senate, including most of the insurance regulations that have been central to Mr. Obama’s health-care message.

That bill would likely set new rules for insurers, such as requiring they accept anyone, regardless of pre-existing medical conditions. This portion of the health-care overhaul has already drawn some Republican support and wouldn’t involve new spending, leading Democratic leaders to believe they could clear the 60-vote hurdle…

Privately, those involved in the talks now say there is a 60% chance the split-bill tactic will be used. Mr. Obama is huddling with aides next week, and Senate leaders are likely to review their options when Congress reconvenes after Labor Day.

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