White House denies drafting fallback healthcare bill
UPDATE: The White House is denying news reports that it is planning its own “backup” health care bill if the congressional effort to reform health care falters.
“We have looked at for months and helped work on legislative language, but nothing has changed about us drafting or introducing a bill,” The Hill quoted White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs as saying.
“Gibbs said that the administration had simply been engaged with Congress in a routine way, and hasn’t been writing sections of a bill,” The Hill stated.
ORIGINAL STORY FOLLOWS BELOW
The Obama Administration is quietly drawing up its own healthcare plan behind the scenes as a fallback measure should healthcare legislation get tied up in Congress, according to a report Wednesday.
The report, printed in the registration-restricted Capitol Hill publication Roll Call, alleges that the administration may have a fully fledged healthcare bill in the wings, aimed at enticing moderate Democrats and even some Republicans to jump on board. It also posits that Obama may have had a reason for being so specific about a potential bill’s pricetag — no more than $900 billion — because his team had already drafted their own bill behind the scenes.
Keith Koffler, who wrote the piece for the paper, says that the bill may never see the light of day, as the White House is waiting to see if a piece of legislation can emerge from Congress on its own. But political observers see the success of a healthcare measure as being a cornerstone of an Obama re-election effort, and so a backup plan should the process stall in Congress is likely.
“Sources differed on how far the process has gotten, with some saying a bill is basically finished and others saying they are aware only of a partially completed effort,” Koffler wrote. “White House officials, though they know their preferences, also appear to be constructing different options that could be thrown together depending on how the legislation is shaping up in Congress.
“But all sources knowledgeable about the effort agreed the measure includes significant detail and possibly even some legislative language that could ensure the bill is ready to go the moment it is needed,” he added.
“They are getting ready for a backup,” a “veteran observer” of health care purportedly told the paper. “It will be parachuted in if necessary.”
Obama has faced criticism from some lawmakers in Congress who’ve called on the White House to be more assertive in outlining what the president is looking for in a bill. In part to temper these criticisms and to move the process forward, Obama recently delivered an address to a joint session of Congress on his priorities.
One lobbyist reportedly told Koeffler he wasn’t surprised that the White House had stayed mum about specifics, asserting that “moderates would demand details and liberals would be concerned the White House was selling them out.”