WASHINGTON, D.C. — “We can’t continue to wait and wait and wait forever,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar said today, insisting that it was past time to pass a health care bill.
Unfortunately for health care overhaul advocates like Klobuchar, the immediate forecast calls for more delays.
A cost analysis of the Senate bill by the Congressional Budget Office is expected to be released this week, with some reports suggesting it could even come later today. Should the cost be considered too high — if the bill isn’t deficit-neutral or if it costs more than $1 trillion — the measure would be unlikely to garner support from centrist Democrats who are already hesitant to support it.
Once introduced, most Senate bills are unanimously considered read. Republican Tom Coburn, however, has said he’ll require the clerk to read the whole bill — more than 1,000 pages of it — aloud to the Senate. Democrats have floated the idea of requiring every senator to stay in the chamber and hear it read, even if it means staying on the floor 24 hours a day for several days.
There’s also the lingering question of abortion, specifically how far the bill will go toward restricting the procedure.
An amendment that was successfully added to the House-passed health care reform bill by moderate Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak would go much further than current law. It not only bans abortion coverage in any public insurance option but forbids private insurance plans offered through a national health care exchange from covering the procedure for individuals that use government subsidies, except in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is at risk.
Klobuchar said she’ll work to keep the final Senate health care bill “abortion neutral,” so that it would be no more or less restrictive of abortion than current regulations, which generally prohibit the use of federal funds to pay for the procedure.