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More Hurdles for Health Care

President Barack Obama has asked that a health care reform bill land on his desk no later than Oct. 15. To comply, Democratic Congressional leaders have targeted the end of July to clear bills out of the House and Senate. A conference committee would likely follow after Members return from the August recess.

But adhering to this timeline could prove difficult given the growing potential for Senate delays.

The decision by Baucus to push the markup of the Finance bill until after the July Fourth recess is just one reason. HELP is also contributing, since it had yet to finish drafting the language for its bill as of Friday despite being three days into its markup session.

And then there’s the time that will be needed to merge the Finance and HELP bills, which cannot occur until after the two have completed their respective markups. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), a veteran lawmaker who sits on both Finance and HELP, predicted the negotiations would be tricky and that the policy differences in the two bills would be tough to reconcile.

Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), who sits on HELP and like most of his GOP colleagues is a critic of the health care reform bill as it is shaping up there, also projected a rocky merger with Finance. Alexander said having to meld the two bills adds an additional layer to an already difficult process.

“It makes it complicated,” he said.

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