Published October 13, 2009
The Senate Finance Committee is voting on health care today. After five months of vigorous and often acerbic debate, lawmakers in Congress are still managing to get it wrong. Not only that, they're leaving many concerns unaddressed and lots of problems unresolved. Here’s what you need to know as we watch Congress embark on a roller coaster ride that will last for weeks:
#1. Questions Still Remain -- What About Taxes?
Many lawmakers remain unconvinced that most of the plans that Congress will mandate will be affordable. The Senate and the House are also at odds on how to pay for the legislation, with the Senate preferring a tax on high-value insurance policies as the primary source of revenue, and House leaders favoring a surcharge on millionaires. Democrats on the far left want to impose fines on companies that do not provide coverage to their employees and middle of the road Democrats favoring a more toned down model.
#2. This Is Just the Beginning
Keep in mind that despite the hype over today’s Finance Committee hearing, the Baucus bill is not the final product. After the vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will summon both Senators Baucus and Dodd -- the author of another piece of legislation that moved through the Senate Health Committee in July -- to his office discuss options about how to reach a compromise.
#3. Keep Your Eye On These Lawmakers
Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and liberal Republican Senator Olympia Snowe (Maine) are the two women to watch. It’s likely they will vote for the Baucus bill, and when they do it will send a message that the principles included in the bill will likely be the ones that Democrats will be forced to defend in the 2010 midterm elections to their constituents. With 13 Democrats and 10 Republicans on the committee, Baucus can only afford to lose one member of his party if Republicans vote to block his bill.
#4. Speaker Pelosi's Role
Typically the House votes first on legislation and then sends a bill to the Senate. But this time it was different. The House needed to go second because it was unlikely that House moderates and Blue Dog Democrats would cast their vote on controversial legislation that might never make it through the Senate, let alone become law.
There’s no question Speaker Nancy Pelosi wanted to go first. Her liberal penchant is for the House to lead (in other words, for her to lead the charge) and set the marker by which every piece of policy is judged going forward. But the legislative reality was different. The Speaker simply didn’t have the votes. And she decided early on in the health care fight to cut the vote pool in half by making this a partisan bill, winnable only with Democratic votes (we knew that was the endgame at the beginning, but she sure went there quickly).
She still believes this is a "message win" for her party. That’s why she’s gone gangbusters. Watch her misstep on the public option since she’s so blind to public opinion on this point in particular.
#5. Plenty of Doubts Persist
Despite a public outcry for smart health care reform and less government control, the bill in consideration still reflects a move to give the government more control of one sixth of our economy and our health care decisions, along with original concerns like ballooning costs, mandates and subsidies. And guess what else awaits? Every bill put forth on health care would result in higher taxes.
While there is a manufactured sense of extreme urgency to get something done, it’s crucial that our lawmakers in both houses get it done correctly. Keep in mind that even if the Baucus bill passes the Finance Committee today, the fight is far from over, and Congress is still far from getting it right.
Andrea Tantaros is the former Press Secretary to House Republican Leadership and a FoxNews.com contributor. Follow her on Twitter @AndreaTantaros.