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Dodd Concedes HELP Unlikely to Complete Health Bill Before Recess

Despite expressing hope a day earlier that the markup of a health care reform bill could be completed by week’s end, Sen. Chris Dodd (Conn.) confirmed Wednesday that the legislation is unlikely to emerge from the panel until after the July Fourth recess.Dodd, pinch-hitting for Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), said progress continues on the committee’s bill. Dodd said he hopes the scheduled merger of the HELP bill with separate legislation being drafted in the Senate Finance Committee can begin even before Finance begins to mark up its bill. Finance is not set to begin its markup until after July 4.Dodd attributed the delay in completing the HELP markup to the Congressional Budget Office needing more time to score the legislation.“We’re going to try and get as much of this done as we can by Thursday or Friday when we adjourn for the Fourth of July break,— Dodd told reporters during a morning news conference. “I hope, that during the Fourth of July break, what we have done, already, could be melded with what the Finance Committee is dealing with, so that we don’t lose the opportunity of time over the following week.—Late Tuesday, top Democratic Senators met in the Capitol with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel to strategize and discuss the progress of health care reform. Dodd, who participated in the meeting, said Emanuel’s main “inquiry— was: “How are we doing?—Dodd said Emanuel also asked what role President Barack Obama could play in moving the ball forward. Obama has been stepping up his campaign to get Congress to pass health care reform this year.“Obviously, the bully pulpit of the presidency is important — to keep taking about the importance of this issue. And, urging of us to work together, to try and develop a bill that would enjoy broad-based support. So, it was that kind of a meeting,— Dodd said.Obama has given the Congress a deadline of Oct. 15 to pass a health care bill, and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate have targeted early August to clear bills out of their respective chambers.A delay in the beginning of the Finance Committee’s markup, originally scheduled to begin this week, and the fact that HELP is taking slightly longer to mark up its bill have left some to question whether the Senate can approve a health care reform bill before the August recess. But Democratic leaders remain optimistic that they can meet that schedule.