Senators Max Baucus and Ted Kennedy just sent the White House a letter, affirming their commitment to marking up health care legislation in June.
It's not news per se. Staff and outside experts have been talking about such a timeline for a while. But this makes it public and official in a way it wasn't before.
It's also consistent with the hoped-for schedule insiders have been sketching out for a while now, for both chambers: Committee markups in ealry summer, floor debates and votes in late summer, conference negotiations and then a final vote in early fall.
It's an ambitious timetable and nobody would be surprised if it slipped. Committee staff have a ton of work to do before they can craft legislative language; and, even then, any of a gazillion political issues could delay progress. That's why the overall timetable is not official.
But this announcement suggests that, so far, things are moving ahead nicely.
Here's the full letter, by the way:
April 20, 2009
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
For nearly a year, we have been working together toward the shared goal of significant reforms to our health care system. We must act swiftly, because the cost of inaction is too high for individuals, families, businesses, state and federal governments. Comprehensive health care reform legislation will responsibly contain costs, improve quality, enhance disease prevention, and provide coverage to all Americans. We are committed to working with you, and with our colleagues in Congress, to enact legislation to achieve these long-overdue reforms without delay. We are writing to you today to let you know of the schedule for committee action that we intend to follow to meet this goal.
Since our committees share jurisdiction over health care reform legislation in the Senate, we have jointly laid out an aggressive schedule to accomplish our goal. Both committees plan to mark-up legislation in early June. Our intention is for that legislation to be very similar, and to reflect a shared approach to reform, so that the measures that our two committees report can be quickly merged into a single bill for consideration on the Senate floor.
The unprecedented level of funding devoted to health care reform in your budget this year leaves no doubt about your commitment to the goals of expanding coverage, reducing costs, and improving health and health care. We have a moral duty to ensure that every American can get quality health care. We must act to contain the growth of health care costs to ensure our economic stability; to help American businesses deal with the health care challenge; and to make sure that we are getting our money’s worth. With your continued leadership and commitment, and working together, we remain certain that our goal of enacting comprehensive health care reform can be accomplished with the urgency that the American people rightly demand.
Senator Max Baucus
Chairman, Senate Finance Committee
Senator Edward M. Kennedy
Chairman, Senate HELP Committee
Photo of Ted Kennedy courtesy of Getty Images. Gratuitous Red Sox reference
courtesy of Jonathan Cohn.