CBO Score to Delay Senate Health Care Debate

Posted October 28, 2009 at 1:59pm

Senate Democrats are concerned that cost estimates for a health care reform bill will not be available for another week and a half, pushing back their quest to begin debating the bill on the floor sometime next week.

Sources said the Congressional Budget Office has told Democratic leaders that their preliminary score for a merger of the Senate Finance package and the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions bill may not be ready until sometime next week, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) anticipates having to resubmit some portions of the measure before bringing it to the floor. That means a final bill is unlikely to be ready for floor action prior to the week of Nov. 9, some sources suggested.

That timeline could complicate Reid’s ability to finish debate before Thanksgiving, because the Veterans Day holiday on Nov. 11 falls on a Wednesday and the Senate is not expected to be in session that day or the remainder of that week. That would leave just one full week of floor debate on the bill before Thanksgiving on Nov. 26.

Reid has submitted several different proposals on different policy aspects to the CBO for scoring. The leader expects to then pick the options that fit within President Barack Obama’s $900 billion threshold for the measure and resubmit the bill to the CBO for a final score.

Senate Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) said he believes the CBO scoring holdup will not prevent Congress from sending a bill to the president before the end of the year.

“I think there is a feeling here that we are not going to rush the process,— Schumer said Wednesday. “We’re going to let the CBO do its thing. We may have to modify it after that, but people are going to get plenty of time — not only the Members, but the public — to look at it, examine and relay their suggestions.—

He added, “We’re going to have to get it done by Christmas. … We may have to work long weeks.—