As Congress returns today from a two-week recess, Senators Edward M. Kennedy and Max Baucus reaffirmed their intention to push through a healthcare overhaul this year.
Baucus, a Montana Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat who leads the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, have been leading the charge so far. In a letter to President Obama, they announced what they called an "aggressive" schedule for their committees to draft comprehensive healthcare legislation in early June.
"We must act swiftly, because the cost of inaction is too high for individuals, families, businesses, state and federal governments," the senators wrote. "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."
Obama has convened a White House summit on healthcare, where Kennedy, who is battling brain cancer, made an emotional appearance. He has also set aside a "downpayment" on healthcare in his $3.6 trillion proposed budget.
The full text of the letter is below:
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 Senator Edward M. Kennedy
Senate Finance Committee Senate HELP Committee
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.