House Democratic Leadership Tepid on Senate Finance Committee bill


Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) hailed his panel for adopting a health care reform bill Tuesday.



“The American people deserve a health care system that works for them and this vote is a critical step toward that goal,” said Baucus.


Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) also applauded the Finance Committee’s effort in a floor speech.


“This broken health care system is fixable.  The question before the Senate is: Do we want to fix it?” Reid asked.


But House Democratic leaders engaged in the health care reform effort appeared less than enthusiastic about the Senate product.


"I'm pleased they passed a bill," said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA), one of the chief architects of the House health care effort.


A reporter then asked whether Waxman was pleased with the Senate package.


"I'm pleased they passed the bill," Waxman responded.


Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), a top-lieutenant to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), responded favorably in a statement. He described it as “another important step in the reform process.” But Van Hollen was more frank with reporters who queried him for his views in a Capitol Hill corridor.


"It is a bill," said Van Hollen. "Now both houses (of Congress) have the same posture."


Three House committees and now two Senate panels have approved a health care reform plan.


But before the Senate Finance Committee acted, the previous four committees that okayed health care reform legislation included provisions for a so-called "public option." A public option is where some people can receive health care insurance from the federal government rather than from private insurance firms.


The public option is one of the most-contentious issues in the health care reform debate.


It's thought that the Senate might not have the votes to approve a measure that includes a government-backed insurance program. But Pelosi has been insistent for months that the House cannot okay a health care plan without what she calls a "robust" public option.


The Senate aims to consider health care reform on the floor the last week of October. But questions remain as to when the House may conduct its floor debate. 


When reporters asked Van Hollen whether that would be before the end of the month, the Maryland Democrat responded "I can't say that."