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SOTU and a Two-Track Strategy

Early reports indicate that the President’s State of the Union address will provide some needed clarity amidst the plethora of speculation surrounding the fate of health reform. Though unlikely to prescribe a timed path, Obama should (hopefully) be able to negate the ‘alternative’ paths like a pared-down bill, or multiple ‘popular’ bills. Here is an early excerpt of the speech:

By the time I’m finished speaking tonight, more Americans will have lost their health insurance. Millions will lose it this year. Our deficit will grow. Premiums will go up. Co-pays will go up. Patients will be denied the care they need. Small business owners will continue to drop coverage altogether. I will not walk away from these Americans. And neither should the people in this chamber.

In Congress, Speak Pelosi floated a two-track strategy that is showing major support in the House. She verified that she would indeed have enough votes in the House through amendments in the reconciliation process, but also intends to fashion additional non-budgetary bills to ease her Caucus’ concerns. For example, the repeal of the anti-trust exemption (a wildly popular provision in the House, but absent from the Senate bill) would not qualify as a budgetary issue under reconciliation but could be fast tracked as a separate bill to be voted on while the Reconciliation Bill develops and the Senate bill waits.

This would make House members uneasy with the Senate bill happier in the short run, provides tangible results for a disgruntled public, gives reconciliation a little breathing room to come to fruition, and most importantly keeps positive momentum towards comprehensive health reform. Like legislative appetizers before the main course.