A Senate panel has until September 15 to deliver a bipartisan health care overhaul package before Democratic leaders take steps to push a bill without broad Republican support, a senior member of the Finance Committee said.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York and vice chairman of the Democratic Conference, said that the party has “contingencies in place” that would make it highly likely a bill could pass the Senate without GOP votes, but warned such mechanisms would be used as a “last resort.”
“Health care reform is just too important,” he said, adding that it can’t be left to “wither on the vine.”
Schumer said the deadline was set by Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Montana, who has quarterbacked negotiations with a small team of five other senators, including three Republicans. One measure open to Democrats is a procedure known as “reconciliation,” which would shorten the period for debate and greatly restrict Republicans’ ability to offer amendments.
Schumer also provided details on a handful of items that will be included in the bill to drive down health care costs, such as provisions that would move providers away from fee-for-service to “bundled” payments, establish a system of value-based purchasing and create so-called “accountable care” organizations.
Such provisions enjoy bipartisan support, he said.
“No matter what happens, we’re going to enact health care reform by the end of the year,” Schumer said.