Health Care Mojo
Bloomberg reports the Senate is moving on health care: “The Senate Finance Committee spelled out alternatives for overhauling the U.S. health-care system, including a mandate that all Americans get health coverage and creation of a government-run program to compete with private insurers … The committee will discuss the options on May 14 with the goal of getting the measure to the Senate floor in July. ”
Politico adds: “the committee will weigh three options for a public health insurance plan that would allow all Americans to buy coverage through the government for the first time. But the committee might also reject the public plan all together, and rely instead on a ‘reformed and well regulated private market’ to expand access to health insurance – a move that could help a sweeping health overhaul draw some Republican support.”
Change.org’s Tim Roley reacts: “the options document has three different plans. Following the tradition of Mike Myers’ All Things Scottish skit on Saturday Night Live, we’ll refer to them as ‘wee,’ ‘not so wee,’ and ‘friggin’ huge.’”
HuffPost reports Specter and other right-leaning Senate Dems not ruling out public plan option. TNR’s Jonathan Cohn adds: “the nice thing about nakedly opportunistic politicians is that their ever-shifting positions are a leading indicator of changing political currents.”
The Hill on GOP strategy: “Rep. Roy Blunt (Mo.), who is helming the House GOP’s healthcare task force, said Monday that he wants to provide his colleagues with an alternative reform proposal before Congress recesses for Memorial Day … That strategy would contrast with the approach espoused by Senate Finance Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley (Iowa), who has urged his fellow Senate Republicans to hold off issuing a counterproposal unless the bipartisan talks in the upper chamber fail to bear fruit.”
The Plum Line on new HCAN ad backing public plan option: “The ad is running in the states of nine Dem Senators who haven’t yet signed on to a public option”
NYT flags whining from Blue Dogs about process.
Howard Dean promotes public plan option, mocks scandal-marred conservative health care spokesman Rick Scott on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show:
Bloomberg on coalition effort to drop deficit-neutral condition: “Preliminary skirmishes over clamping down on offshore corporate tax havens, taxing employee benefits and winning discounts on drug prices may dictate the fate of the president’s plan to broaden U.S. health-insurance coverage and cut costs … The odds of winning so many funding fights are so daunting that an odd-couple coalition of more than two dozen interest groups, including the pro-business U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO union federation and the AARP retirees’ lobby, wants lawmakers to drop Obama’s deficit-neutral goal as a potential deal-killer.”
FT: “The US Treasury on Monday proposed raising taxes on securities dealers and life assurers to plug an unexpected shortfall in revenue needed for the administration’s healthcare overhaul. The Treasury outlined extra proposals to raise $58bn over 10 years after officials realised that tax plans outlined in February would not raise as much as previously thought.”
NYT adds: “the administration on Monday proposed to raise nearly $60 billion more over 10 years mostly from tightening rules for inheritance taxes affecting the wealthiest estates”
Ezra Klein on financing:“[WH budget director] Peter Orszag’s announcement that the administration is not only continuing to support is $635 billion health care fund, but actually adding pieces to it, is important news … so it’s good to see the administration sticking behind its proposals, even the ones that got a little beat-up in the previous round. They’ve kept, for instance, the idea to limit the itemized deductions of the richest Americans, even though that took some flack when it was initially announced.”
House Democrats may be nearing a resolution on energy and climate legislation … Waxman will meet Tuesday afternoon with committee Democrats to follow up on staff discussions over the weekend. A markup is expected to begin as early as May 14, though a committee spokeswoman said no decision has been made…
…The biggest area of contention is the bill’s cap-and-trade plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. President Obama proposed to auction pollution allowances that industry would use in order to meet the cap. Yet to win votes, Waxman’s bill will almost certainly allow businesses to receive some of these allowances for free.
Lawmakers are not divulging any details of a compromise proposal. However, the bill is generally expected to provide about 35 percent of the allowances to local electric distribution companies, which would then be expected to pass the savings on to consumers. Additional allowances, most likely around 15 percent, could go to the manufacturing industry, and coal-fired utilities could receive some allowances to fund research into carbon capture and sequestration. Oil-state lawmakers want 5 percent of the allowances to go to refineries, but Gene Green, D-Texas, said negotiations are continuing. “We’re not there yet,” he said.
Several members also want to auction a substantial portion of the allowances to pay for research into clean-energy technologies and to assist low-income consumers. Some of the allowances would also go to the Treasury so the bill is deficit-neutral.
An even bigger decision for Waxman is whether to change the draft bill’s short-term target to reduce emissions 20 percent from current levels by 2020. Waxman has repeatedly said he does not want to change the target, but to reach a deal, he could move closer to Obama’s proposal to reduce emissions 14 percent by 2020.
Grist’s Kate Sheppard cautions: “in the absence of details, speculation is rampant about how the bill has been weakened or otherwise changed … The near-term target for cutting emissions may be lowered in the new version of the bill, to 14 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 … The target for cutting emissions by 2050 is likely to remain as it was in the original draft: 83 percent below 2005 levels. The bill’s renewable electricity standard is another component that may be weakened. The draft called for 25 percent of each state’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2025 … committee leaders are reportedly considering lowering the mandate to 17.5 percent, and could allow a portion of that to be met by efficiency measures. Another bargaining chip with moderate Democrats might be offshore oil and gas drilling … the White House is floating the possibility of a ‘grand bargain’ that would lump some expanded domestic oil and gas drilling in … Such a deal could also help put in place new protections for the coasts.”
Climate Progress’ Joe Romm has more wonky speculation.
Matt Yglesias downplays concerns about carbon cap compromises: “when you look at Waxman-Markey comprehensively, it’s stronger on the short-term than just looking at the cap-and-trade provisions would lead you to believe.”
AP on the massive lobbying effort: “Utilities, steelmakers and oil industry lobbyists have tried to ease the pain of President Barack Obama’s push to curb global warming, and they’ve gotten an early return on the millions of dollars they’ve spent influencing Congress. Lawmakers determined to get a deal on climate change are going along with valuable concessions to polluters. It’s part of the political trading necessary when powerful industries are involved.”
Wonk Room flags disengenuous posture from conservative front group: “NAM Tries To Hide Its Opposition To Clean Energy Legislation After Utility Company Departs”
President Jimmy Carter testifies to Senate today on energy security.
Credit Card Deal Reached
Politico on Senate bipartisan bill to stiffen rules on credit card companies, expected to pass this week: “The compromise softened some provisions in Dodd’s original bill — which came out of committee without a single Republican vote — but still would give the industry a stronger dose of medicine than the bill passed by the House last month … The Dodd-Shelby compromise allows credit card companies to slap on a higher interest rate only if the card holder is 60 days late in making a minimum payment. However, if the consumer pays on time for the next six months, the lender would have to drop the interest rate down to the original level. Dodd’s original bill banned rate increases on existing balances regardless of missed payments, and the House bill passed last month allows rate hikes after the cardholder is 30 days late.”
CQ cites consumer advocate support; “‘We recognize that it is a compromise but in key areas remains stronger than the House or Fed proposals,’ said Ed Mierzwinski, the consumer program director of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a consumer advocacy organization. ‘In particular, no retroactive rate increases are allowed unless a consumer is 60 days late. We preferred none at all, but this is lot better than allowing them if only 30 days late, as the House and Fed provide.’”
Social Security Trustee Report Today
Salon.com’s Michael Lind previews the anti-SocSec arguments: “I don’t know what will be in the report. But I do know what the response will be. Conservatives, libertarians and center-right Democrats will take whatever the report says as evidence that there is an ‘entitlement crisis,’ … Among the bogus arguments you can expect: The date at which Social Security will become bankrupt has advanced! … We have only two choices, or a combination — cutting benefits or raising the payroll tax … Social Security and other entitlements are responsible for unfunded liabilities of more than $100 trillion … ”
“The Obama administration estimates that the economic stimulus plan will create or save 750,000 jobs by early August, a senior administration official said on Monday:” CNN/Money.com
States need more stimulus to avoid layoffs. W. Post: “…in the Senate, the [state] stabilization funding [in the stimulus bill] was cut by $40 billion to secure the support of the three Republicans who were needed for a filibuster-proof 60 votes … the final $787 billion bill, which included $25 billion less in state aid than the House plan, said it would help states avoid severe cuts. But tax revenue is coming in even lower than feared.”
Politico on the corporate lobby strategy: “CEOs are writing op-eds, and the coalition plans to have company representatives meet with lawmakers back home, which could drum up positive local media coverage. ”
“General Motors does not plan to sweeten its debt exchange offer to bondholders, even though its failure would probably push the company into bankruptcy, G.M.’s chief executive said Monday.”: NYT
TPMDC: Will Unions Back A Green [Party] Candidate Against Blanche Lincoln?
TNR’s Brad Plumer: “[Rep. Jim] Oberstar is calling for ‘transit equity,’ which could be a huge shift. At the moment, the federal government picks up about 80 percent of the tab for road and highway projects, 90 percent for new airports, and just 50 percent for mass transit. As we’ve outlined before, that disparity means that localities tend to favor highways, even when other options (say, a light-rail system) may make more sense or are more popular. All that could well start to change dramatically.”
Terrance Heath contributed to the making of this Breakfast