As Congress enters its final bill-writing stretch before marking up health reform legislation next month, does it appear lawmakers in the House and Senate are on track to meet their goal of passing a bill before August recess? Is it realistic to think the factions among Democrats in the House and both parties in the Senate can settle their differences in just a few weeks? If they show signs of slipping past the deadline, does it matter?
The Senate Finance Committee has followed a rigorous process the last couple of months to bring its members up to speed on health reform and options for improving and expanding coverage, not to mention paying for it. But as committee leaders attempt to forge a bipartisan agreement, they have yet to publicly make any decisions on what options would end up in legislation. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee has worked almost exclusively behind closed doors and has yet to reach any public agreements with GOP members.
House Democrats are attempting to work in tandem, which now means collecting views from not only three key committee chairmen, but also different caucuses in the party. According to Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., the committees have only just started developing a framework for health reform legislation.