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The Next Big Congressional Fight

With all eyes on the political battle brewing over Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s Supreme Court nomination, it’s easy to forget that the tougher congressional fight this summer will almost certainly revolve around health care reform.

Lending a glimpse at what’s looming, The Washington Post today gives a few leaked details of what Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) is eyeing for his health reform proposal — and they are sure to cause an outcry from many of his upper-chamber colleagues.

The proposal, for example, goes the controversial Massachusetts-plan route by mandating that everyone obtain health coverage, The Post reports; it promotes the even more controversial concept of a government-sponsored plan to compete with private insurers; and it proposes to extend Medicaid eligibility to include those earning up to 500 percent of poverty wages — $54,150 for a single earner, or $110,250 for a family of four.

If you recall the ferocity with which Republicans fought the idea of expanding the State Children’s Health Insurance Program to include kids from families living at even 300 percent of the poverty line, you’ll have a taste of the coming debate.

Not that Kennedy is alone here. Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), a moderate who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, is also working on comprehensive health care reform. Baucus is collaborating closely with his counterpart on the committee, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), a long-time opponent of public health plans and the expansion of programs like SCHIP and Medicaid to include moderate-income homes.

If the Democrats hope to pass anything this year, someone’s got to give. As President Obama told supporters yesterday, “If we don’t get it done this year, we’re not going to get it done.”

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