Monday, February 1, 2010

So Close, and Yet So Far

The chairman of the Senate Health Committee tells The Hill that negotiators from the White House, Senate and House reached a final deal on healthcare reform days before Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa said negotiators had an agreement in hand on Friday, Jan. 15 - four days before Scott Brown's surprise Senate win in Massachusetts turned the debate on its head.

“We had an agreement, with the House, the White House and the Senate," Harkin said. "We sent it to [the Congressional Budget Office] to get scored and then Tuesday happened and we didn’t get it back.”

Brown’s Jan. 19 victory gave Republicans control of 41 seats in the Senate, enough to sustain a GOP filibuster of the healthcare bill. But Harkin told reporters in a Monday telephone conference that health reform legislation is still "very much alive."

He said he has been advocating in recent days for the House to pass the Senate version of the health care bill along with a package of revisions that would be passed through the reconciliation process, which would only require a simple majority in the Senate. Harkin predicted that Democrats would pursue that course in the coming weeks and most likely finish by early March.

That differs from the assessment of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel, who Thursday told the New York Times that Democrats would try to act first on job creation, reducing the deficit and imposing tighter regulation on banks before returning to the health measure.


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