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About Tuesday's healthcare vote, and what comes next

A long-awaited vote is slated from the Senate Finance Committee this week. Then it's up to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to reconcile it with the health committee's bill.

October 11, 2009|Kim Geiger

WASHINGTON — A key vote on a healthcare proposal is scheduled for Tuesday. Here are some questions and answers about the vote and the next legislative steps:

What's the significance of the Senate Finance Committee's scheduled vote Tuesday on its healthcare bill?

This will be the long-awaited vote to pass the centrist version of a healthcare overhaul out of committee.

The vote is expected to fall along party lines, except perhaps for Sen. Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, a moderate Republican who could support the bill.

What happens next?

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada will attempt -- with input from the White House -- to reconcile the Finance Committee bill with a more liberal bill passed by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Provisions of the Finance bill are expected to remain largely intact because it addresses revenues and taxes in a way the other bill does not.

The goal will be to fashion a bill that can attract at least 60 votes on the Senate floor, enough to ward off a Republican filibuster.

What is the "opt-out" public option being discussed as a possible compromise?

A proposal championed by Sens. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.) would allow states to decide whether they want to include a government-run insurance plan on a state insurance exchange.

The idea is an attempt to attract liberal supporters who believe a so-called public option must be part of a final bill and moderates who don't want to force the option on states.

The provision is not currently part of the Finance bill, but could be added by Reid or through an amendment on the Senate floor.

The Congressional Budget Office says the Finance Committee bill would cost $829 billion over 10 years but would also cut the deficit. How is that possible?

The CBO estimates that the cost of expanding Medicaid and providing subsidies and tax credits to help low-income earners buy insurance will amount to $829 billion. But it estimates that the bill, through a combination of an excise tax on high-end insurance policies and hundreds of billions in projected Medicare savings, will result in the government spending less over the 10-year span.

But many analysts question whether all those cost savings will actually occur. And the Finance Committee scaled down the excise tax and other revenue provisions of the bill, meaning that the government would take in less than it would have previously.


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