If accurate, this Associated Press report is a big deal:
Officials say that a bipartisan group in the Senate is edging closer to a health care compromise that omits a government insurance option that President Barack Obama favors. Nor is it expected to require businesses to offer coverage to their employees.
I’ve heard this possibility floated once or twice as a sort of unlikely contingency–in the event that bipartisan negotiations drag on and on past deadlines, the Senate Finance Committee could vote on an extremely slimmed-down bill, completely silent on controversial provisions, in order to get it through the panel with bipartisan support. Then, as it’s merged with the HELP bill, and then later with House legislation in conference committee, those provisions would be imported, meaning the final votes would be much more partisan.
The Senate adjourns at the end of next week, so time is really of the essence, and the above interpretation makes a certain amount of sense given that time line. But again, I’m not positive that’s what’s going on here. I’ll report back when I know more.
Late update: Of course, a simpler (and less newsy) interpretation of the same article is that the committee is set to endorse private co-ops instead of a public option. But that’s been expected for quite some time now. Either way, if their bill contains no employer mandate, that’s a pretty major punt.
Later update: Significant updates here.