House Pledges July 31 Deadline to Pass Health Care Reform
Updated 11:06 a.m.
By Scott Wilson
House leaders pledged today to pass comprehensive health care legislation by July 31, a deadline President Obama said showed the "urgency" needed to fulfill his signature reform measure this year.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced the deadline after meeting with Obama and other House Democratic leaders at the White House this morning. The president linked the pledge to other progress he said he has made this week on sweeping health care reform, a goal that has proven elusive for decades. If it stays on deadline, the House would send legislation to the Senate after the August recess, improving its chances of passing this year.
"We don't have any excuses," Obama said. "The stars are aligned."
Obama began the week meeting with health care industry executives who pledged to voluntarily reduce the annual growth of health care costs by 1.5 percentage points, saving an estimated $2 trillion over the next decade. Obama repeated today that escalating health care costs are "the single biggest driver by far" of the ballooning budget deficit and national debt, and those projected savings would in theory help reduce Medicare and Medicaid costs in the coming years.
On Tuesday, Obama held a roundtable discussion at the White House with business leaders to talk about employer health care costs. In looking for ways to pay for expanded health care coverage, the administration is considering taxing the cost of some employer-subsidized health benefits, something that Obama opposed during last year's campaign.
But Obama said today he is encouraged by the week's discussions, saying that "we are starting to see a shift in those patterns" of partisanship, industry opposition, and special-interest lobbying pressure that have conspired to undermine past efforts to bring down health care costs and extend coverage. About 50 million Americans have no health insurance today.
Republican Rep. Roy Blunt (Mo.), chairman of the House Health Care Solutions Group, expressed displeasure after the meeting at not having been included.
"I've told the President and White House staff on numerous occasions that the House Health Care Solutions Group is ready to work with him toward the shared goal of making quality, affordable health care accessible to all Americans," he said in a statement. "This common ground serves as a constructive starting point for true health care reform, but we find private, one-party meetings that set arbitrary deadlines a sign of a troubling lack of bipartisanship."
Posted at 10:57 AM ET on May 13, 2009
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