With Senate Majority Leader Reid’s announcement that the Senate would not pass a comprehensive health care reform bill before the August recess, the end of July and August recess will no longer be a frantic time to try and pass health care reform, but a time of preparation for a push in the fall.  All members of Congress will be spending a few weeks in August back in their districts and states, and it is very likely health care will be one of the top issues they discuss with their constituents.  Both chambers are in different positions with their bills, and their next seven weeks will be worth watching:

–          In the Senate, the HELP Committee has already voted a bill to the floor.  The legislation, which went through a complete mark-up, received no Republican votes and is seen as the more Democratic health care bill.  The HELP bill however cannot be voted on until it married to the Finance Committee bill, which has yet to be released.  Finance Committee chair Max Baucus (D-MT) yesterday said the removal of the deadline would help his negotiations (subscription) in finalizing their bill.  The Senate leaves for recess August 7; by then the Finance Committee may release their version of the bill, but it is unlikely it will be passed from committee before August.  Over the recess, look for staff and members to negotiate how they can merge the HELP and Finance bills while trying to ensure 60 votes for passage.

–          In the House, negotiates continue between the Blue Dogs and Democratic leadership.  The House recess begins a week earlier than the Senate’s (July 31), so it will be nearly impossible for the House to pass its bill before leaving (although Rahm Emanuel said this morning it will do just that).  Some media sources have suggested that the Democratic leadership could bypass the Energy & Commerce committee and just bring the health care bill to the House floor, but such a maneuver would likely torpedo discussions with the Blue Dogs.  Over the next seven weeks, look for how the Democratic leadership balances negotiations with the Blue Dogs while trying to maintain support for the bill with more liberal caucuses, such as the Congressional Black Caucus.

Quick Hits

House Republicans are almost ready to release their health bill… The president says he is unconcerned with Senator Reid’s announcement and is focused on signing a bill before the end of the year… The White House chief of staff directly involves himself in the House negotiations… The US Chamber of Commerce outlines its concerns with the proposed health care bills.