Senate Healthcare Reform Is Already Bipartisan, Dem Spokesman Says

Healthcare reform legislation in the Senate already is very bipartisan, according to a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Refuting one of the key charges Republicans have leveled against healthcare reform — that Senate Democrats have crafted a highly partisan bill devoid of GOP ideas – spokesman Jim Manley says the package more than 145 GOP amendments.

The 147 Republican amendments included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as passed by the Senate, is in addition to all of the GOP ideas that were incorporated into the bills in committee, according to the spokesman for the Nevada Democrat.

Further, Manley says, Senate healthcare reform contains nine out of 10 GOP “Key Elements” for reform. Senate Republicans don’t have a comprehensive health care plan, but their House counterparts do, and that House plan contains 10 “key elements” of their health care plan. The Senate bill contains nine of those, Manley says.

Despite that GOP content, no Republicans supported the healthcare reform bill when the Senate approved it on Christmas Eve. At the time, Reid had to muster all 60 of the members of his caucus that he had then to get the reform bill over the hurdle of a Republican filibuster.

Reid since lost his 60th member in the Jan. 19 special election in Massachusetts, when Republican Scott Brown stunned Democrats by taking the Senate seat once held by the late Ted Kennedy. Brown’s election means Democrats no longer can avoid filibusters, which is why the healthcare endgame is relying in part on a filibuster-proof procedure called “reconciliation.”

Manley used the occasion of a Wall Street Journal op-ed co-authored by the two Republican leaders on Capitol Hill, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, to pick apart a number of common arguments that Republicans regularly assert about healthcare reform and which appear in the WSJ piece.

“Republicans have been playing fast and loose with the truth on health reform since day one, but saying the same thing over and over again doesn’t make it true. By now it’s clear whose side they are on – they want to preserve the current system in which health insurers get rich, patients lose their coverage when they need it most, and families and small businesses go broke because of skyrocketing costs.”

Among other GOP talking points that he takes on, Manley also says the Senate bill would not cut Medicare benefits.

Reform would actually increase benefits for seniors, Manley says. He quotes the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) which has cited research findings that “nearly 30 percent of Medicare’s costs could be saved without negatively affecting health outcomes…and those estimates could probably be extrapolated to the health care system as whole.”

Manley also cites a New York Times editorial published Sept. 27, 2009, which says the Senate bill would improve the drug coverage for seniors under Medicare.

The Boehner/McConnell piece also recycles the Republican charge that the Senate bill increases the federal budget deficit, but that, too, is false, Manley says. He again cites the CBO which says the Senate bill would reduce federal deficits by $118 billion over the next 10 years. Healthcare reform would continue to reduce federal deficits in the decades following 2019, Manley adds.

The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.

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