The White House and Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) may be headed toward disagreement on a major issue related to health care overhaul, as a top aide to President Barack Obama noted a key pay-for being considered on Capitol Hill is not part of the presidents plan.
At a White House health care event, Baucus indicated that taxation of employer-provided health benefits should be considered. But Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag reiterated White House skepticism toward the controversial idea.
That was not in the presidents plan, Orszag said. It was not in our budget.
A comment by Orszag that I think we need to stay where we are was a reference to the position the White House has been taking on the issue and not a suggestion that the policy should not be changed, according to OMB spokesman Kenneth Baer.
Despite heavily criticizing Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), Obamas GOP opponent in last years presidential campaign, for pushing the idea, the White House has never completely taken it off the table.
Baucus also declared that he believes a health care overhaul will be completed this year. Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), who was also at the meeting, said he believed a measure can be agreed to by the committees considering the legislation over the next eight to 10 weeks.
Baucus and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) are developing legislation on parallel tracks and have moved recently to downplay reported differences in their approaches.
Obama will huddle with Democrats Tuesday afternoon to mull over options.