It might not be an election year, but the campaign is on for healthcare reform.
With President Obama’s healthcare legislation bogging down in Washington, Democrats plan to take the issue directly to the people, primarily to increase public pressure to pass legislation now. The president wants Congress to act before the August recess or no later than the end of the year.
The Missourinet asked Congressman Russ Carnahan , a Democrat from the St. Louis area, why the president seems intent on rushing the process.
"I would disagree with that presumption," Carnahan replied during a telephone news conference sponsored by the group Organizing for America , described as a project of the Democratic National Committee .
Carnahan acknowledged the health care bill is large and complex, but claimed little in it is new with most having been debated for years.
"This is not new or rushed," Carnahan said, "but we do realize there is an optimum window of time between now and the end of the year before we get into the heat of another election year when we’ve got a good window of time to really go through this thoroughly and take it up."
House and Senate leaders had been attempting to get floor votes on the president’s plan before Congress leaves on its August recess. The House is set to take its break after July 31st. The Senate has scheduled its summer break to begin August 8th. President Obama had pushed for that timetable, but might be backing away from it. In brief remarks on the legislation at the White House, the president indicated he would be content with reaching agreement on a bill by the end of the year.
The estimated cost of the legislation seems to be giving some members of Congress pause as does a proposal to pay for it. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the bill would cost $1 trillion over 10 years. It would extend health care coverage to 37 million people. The House Ways and Means Committee has proposed a tax surcharge on the wealthiest Americans to pay half the costs, with cost-savings expected to pick up the remainder. It appears the Senate is wary about the tax, which would apply to individuals with adjusted gross incomes of more than $280,000 and couples earning a combined income of $350,000. The Ways and Means Committee suggests the tax would affect 1.2% of households and would raise $544 billion over 10 years.
Democrats are pushing for action this year, fearing that such a massive reform measure has little chance of passing during an election year.
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