In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Charlie Foxtrot: With White House Watching, Democrats Try To Pick Up The Pace On Health Care Reform

Chief among those strides: The Senate Finance Committee--riven by intra- and inter-party differences--will have to belatedly settle upon final language and release a draft bill. That committee was supposed to complete work on its bill last month, but has been struggling for weeks to reach consensus on the questions of the public option and financing. Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid became involved in the process and urged committee chairman Max Baucus not to let Republicans further delay progress. He told Baucus that GOP demands vis-a-vis those two issues would make the bill toxic to a number of Democrats, and that, if need be, he should eschew bipartisanship and quickly release a bill--complete with a public option--fully paid for, but without imposing a tax on employer-provided health care benefits.

A week later, that still hasn't happened. But it could at any time, and if the August deadline is to be met, it better happen sooner, rather than later.

By comparison, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee is way ahead of the game. That panel is just about done with a marathon mark-up process. It has settled upon legislative language calling for a public option, and leaders expect its 13 Democrats to vote unanimously to move it out of committee.

Once those two bills are complete, they'll be merged and a long floor debate can begin.

In the meantime, the House of Representatives is set to unveil its draft legislation tomorrow. That bill was written by leaders of the Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, and Education and Labor committees, and the mark-up, which could begin as early as this week, will allow each of the committees to amend the titles of the bill over which they have jurisdiction.

Once that process is complete, the House will need significantly less time to hold a vote on the finalized bill than the Senate will. But leaders in that chamber are still trying to hammer out disagreements between liberal and conservative Democrats over the robustness of the bill's public option, and its sources of revenue. Ways and Means Committee chairman Charlie Rangel has proposed a surtax on Americans making more than $350,000 a year to cover about half the bill's expected cost--an idea that doesn't seem to be going over well with Republicans and at which the Senate is likely to balk.