President Obamas spirited defense of his health plan at his address to Congress should help prod reluctant lawmakers to start working together to get some type of reform passed.
Despite the heckling from one lawmaker, Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C. (not to be confused with Valerie Plames husband), the president scored some points with his speech, although his promises to look into doing demonstration projects on malpractice reform apparently left many Republicans feeling underwhelmed.
Meanwhile, Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., revealed a proposed framework for health care reform. It includes tax credits in tax years 2011 and 2012 for small businesses with fewer than 25 employees and average wages below $40,000. Qualifying employers would be able to receive the credit for up to two years, with a maximum credit of 35 percent. Instead of a public option for government-run health insurance, Baucuss framework provides for health care cooperatives that receive start-up loans from the federal government.
Baucus has been working with the so-called Gang of Six on his committee, which includes former accountant Mike Enzi, R-Wyo. Enzi noted that the latest estimates from the Congressional Budget Office peg the cost of the health care bill passed by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee at a deficit-ballooning level of over $1 trillion, although it isn't clear if this factors in the cost savings promised by the bill's proponents. Enzi said the Finance Committee needed to continue working on hammering out a bipartisan bill. I hope that the President and Democrats in Congress will set aside these flawed bills and work with us to develop a reasonable consensus and step-by-step approach that the American people can support, he said in a statement.
Hopefully after Wednesday evenings speech, Congress will be in more of a bipartisan mood to reach a compromise on a final bill, although the health care debate seems to be one of many subjects these days where bipartisanship usually seems to come up short.