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The excise tax, the issue that essentially forced the sidecar reconciliation, is back as an issue as Congress tries to find a way to squeeze more savings out of the bill for the CBO without raising taxes on the wealthy or including a public option. The negotiations over this seem to be behind the delay.

On Wednesday, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka was called into an unplanned meeting at the White House to discuss late-stage negotiations on a proposed tax on high-end insurance plans. According to sources familiar with what transpired, congressional leaders had begun discussions earlier in the day (perhaps last night) about accelerating the tax's impact in order to produce more savings under the president's revised health care bill.

Under the president's plan, those families with health care plans over $27,500 and individuals with plans over $10,200 would be taxed starting in 2018. That tax would be indexed to the Consumer Price Index plus one percent, which would provide some additional comfort to those with high-end policies -- specifically for labor workers who had bargained for these plans.

The plan, however, got tripped up after congressional negotiators received poorer-than-expected feedback from the Congressional Budget Office, a senior Democratic hill aide confirmed. And as a compromise, on Wednesday, they began discussing indexing the tax simply to the Consumer Price Index.

"What the White House is putting out is not any big major changes to the deal," said a source briefed on the matter. "What they are talking about is the way things are right now the tax was indexed to CPI+1 and they want to change it to CPI general inflation."

The proposal isn't as bad as it could be, but it's still going back to the progressive well for yet another concession. Trumka is taking the proposal to his executive committee tomorrow. This could be the make or break for this latest iteration of the bill. The cuts to that rate were what brought a huge chunk of Dems back to the place where they could support the bill, so the question is will they take it now. On top of the loss of the public option and the inclusion of the almost-as-bad-as-Stupak Nelson abortion language, it would seem that, as Chris says, "a pound of flesh must always be taken from any left-wing group in order for any victory to be allowed."

Update: This means that the soonest the vote can be is Sunday, for those making their schedules.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Wed Mar 17, 2010 at 05:00 PM PDT.

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