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Senate’s Health Timeline May Slip

However, an insurance industry insider speculated that the August recess could allow policy experts to examine the legislation and recommend changes that strengthen the bill in advance of a presumed fall floor debate.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) dismissed the notion that the push for health care reform might suffer a politically terminal setback during the summer break.

“I think people at home in both parties are going to hear how [their constituents] need help,” Brown told reporters Thursday during the conference call with Dodd. “I don’t think it hurts us at all.”

The senior Democratic Senate aide, predicting a relatively fast markup of the Finance bill and an easier merger with the HELP legislation than most, said a final bill could hit the floor just after the middle of July, allowing for two weeks of debate before the docket is cleared to deal with the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor.

But Sotomayor’s confirmation process, consisting of Judiciary Committee hearings set to begin July 13 followed by floor debate, could play a leading role in delaying approval of a final Senate bill until after Congress returns from the August recess.

The wealth of parliamentary delaying tactics available to the Republicans could also draw out the process, even with the Democrats set this week to command a 60-seat majority.

“I think Democrats understand they have their work cut out for them to produce something that can withstand public scrutiny,” a senior Republican Senate aide said.

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