Washington (CNN) – House Democrats are already home for the holidays, but they huddled on a conference call Wednesday afternoon to discuss the next steps in negotiating a final health care bill with the Senate.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi restated the goal is to get a final bill to President Obama's desk before his State of the Union address in late January or early February, but admitted on the call that timeline could slip, according to two senior Democratic aides who were on the call.
Members made it clear to House leaders that they didn't want to simply accept the Senate bill, the aides said.
"Their point is that while both bills are a major step toward making affordable, quality health care available to all Americans, the House bill has quicker reform, is more affordable, and covers more people," according to one of the aides.
The Wednesday call follows a Tuesday meeting that Pelosi convened with other top House Democratic leaders and committee chairs via phone to map out the House's game plan for a conference with the Senate early next year. Although the House won't be in session until January 12, next week House staff will begin working through the differences on the two chambers' healthcare bills, according to several Democratic aides. Leaders and committee chairmen will return in early January for health care meetings. These aides were hesitant to get into specific details because the Senate hasn't passed a bill yet, but they emphasize that the House Democratic leaders will push hard for some key elements of their reform measure.
Pelosi told rank-and-file Democrats Wednesday that staff would put together a comparison of the House and Senate bills soon to help members prioritize the changes they want to see in a final bill. Leaders will schedule another conference call with all House Democrats before they return in January. The House and Senate are in session very few days in January, and will need to get final cost estimates from the Congressional Budget Office before voting on a bill.
Given the reality of the 60-vote threshold in the Senate, there wasn't much discussion among House leaders about pushing hard for the public option the House passed in a final bill. "They [the Senate] tried to see if they had support for it. There isn't. That's the reality. I think a lot of people are coming to terms with that and I don't know how productive it would be to bring it out again," a top Democratic leadership aide told CNN.
House Democratic leaders will push their Senate counterparts to include more affordability credits in the final bill. They also want the new health care exchange - where consumers can shop for insurance plans - to start in 2013, instead of the Senate's start date of 2014. "I think people on both sides of the Capitol would like to see the effective date moved up. Whether we can do that and pay for it is a question," another senior Democratic aide noted.
Because most of the major health care reforms won't go into effect until well after the 2010 election, House Democrats are also focused on showing immediate and tangible benefits to consumers. Leaders want a final bill to begin closing the so-called prescription drug "donut hole" for seniors next year. Under current Medicare coverage limits, when drugs costs reach $2,700 seniors must begin to pay all the costs out of pocket until they reach $6,154, at which Medicare coverage kicks back in. Under the House bill, this hole in coverage is cut by $500 immediately, and seniors get a 50 percent discount for some drugs. The House version closes the hole completely by 2019, but the Senate bill takes longer.
These aides said there would be a priority in keeping cost control measures in the final bill. There will be negotiations over abortion language as well as a fight between the chambers over how to pay for health care reform. The vast majority of House Democrats are on record opposing the Senate's so called "Cadillac tax" on high cost insurance plans. But several aides concede that House Democrats may be able to live with a compromise that ups the threshold at which the tax goes into effect.
House Democrats also recognize their surtax on wealthy Americans faces problems in a conference with the Senate. In lieu of the House proposal, there is discussion about increasing the rate on the Senate's Medicare payroll tax on higher income taxpayers.
As the health care debate moves to another stage next year, House Democrats are pressing again for President Obama to get more personally engaged in negotiating final details. One senior aide told CNN that there will be a push for the White House to change the largely hands-off approach it used in 2009 to pass the administration's key goals in the House. "House Democrats have been eager to move the president's agenda, they support the president's agenda. But we expected there to be more lifting from the White House," the aide said.
Several House Democrats on the Wednesday call also told leaders they are worried that the longer the process drags out, the harder it is to make the case to voters in their districts about the benefits of passing health care reform.
If the Health Care bill passes as is, we are going to have a wave of Democrats leaving Congress.
They will be held accountable for forcing this Health Care bill down our throats.
What happened to REFORM?
Why are we allowing Congress to make deals with Senators to exclude them from the Health Care bill?
Why should 49 States take on the Burden of Nebraska?
Why should 59 States force their Seniors to pay more for Medicare and Medicaid, while Florida is given a free pass.
Either we ALL do it or NO ONE does it.
Healtth care will pass, whether American people like it or not.
For those of us who are not Marxists, this is a defeat.
We have lost.
The sun also rises.
Now this is the part where they either turn on one another or, slip in Federally funded abortion and the Public Option.
With any luck at all, that imbecilic socialist Pelosi will demand changes even our fairly-bright socialist President won't agree to.
I hope in 2010 you will have a new job because you will be voted out of office along with Reid.
You don't seem to work for the majority of the people just your tax and spending friends so you can jet around at the tax payers expense.
Thanks for nothing.
no need for house democrats to push hard for the public option as its clear now that a bill with public option will not pass the senate.As a democrat in canada, i think they should compromise and get the bill done and fight for the public option later.Democrats have a bump today ion the polls that should signal to them that after all is said and done with passing of a bill, American will rally around them, they will pay dearly if they dont compromise and pass a bill as soon as possible.the more they delay, the more the faith in the bill wanes.
Botox Nancy is an anachronism of a corrupt, misguided party.
As a CA voter I will oppose your continuance.
Poll after poll shows that Americans do NOT want these health care schemes. Democrats - we WILL vote you out of pffice!
At the end of the day, they WILL manage a reconciled bill and pass it through both houses and get it to the President's desk.
It seems like they KNOW that time is of the essence, in terms of getting LEGITIMATE information about the real BENEFITS to Americans, so that we can see that the bill will help us...
If they do those things, and show what needs to be seen, America will vote Democrats in again, for a while.
America deserves a break from the "Right" wing self help gurus who have made themselves ever richer over the last decade, at the working person's expense. As always, Patriotic HARD WORKING middle class labor has paid and paid, it's time to get some returns for US on OUR investment.
america was born as a glorious vision of freedom and aspiration.
Sometimes, when a beautiful dream dies in one place, it arises in another and flourishes there.
Any bets the Democrats will continue to work behind closed doors and continue to berate the Republicans for not coming up with any ideas ( while of course the Democrats ignore anything the Republicans offer)
What was it Obama promised ( one of those he broke instantaneously)
oh yes his administration would be the most BI-PARTISAN ever.
I guess that meant the Democrats would do what he wanted and the Republicans should say nothing and go along – somehow that seems as bi-partisan as this administration is transparent
But then I guess it is at the least transparent in showing itself to not carte about the voters or anything that doesn't put money and power in their pockets
We need health care reform. But not like this disgusting bill. The way they went about this just makes me sick.What a bunch of low life's.And Obama is number one. Hes done nothing but lie to the American people.To think I would rather have Bush back makes me even sicker.America is on its death bed.
SEN. HARKIN SAID IT ALL....."IT'S JUST A STARTER HOUSE!"...... just like Social Security started really small and got out-of-control......just like Medicare started small and is now bankrupting the USA.
TAKE YOUR STARTER HOUSE AND MAKE IT A TRAILER AND TAKE IT OUT OF HERE TOM!!!!!
Yea for America, it looks like a health care reform bill will pass the Senate, the Conference committee and will be again approved by both houses of Congress, and THEN the president gets to sign it. There are still a lot of possibilities before that happens but I am sure that at the conclusion of it all, President Obama will win one of most important victories of his new presidency: a health care reform bill.
This isn't even reform. NOBODY will know what was passed until long after they pass it, and you can be SURE they'll claim victory.
Meanwhile, we're all now out another 3-5% of our income. Thanks, Barry.
And the corruption continues!
What does this old bat know?
If we taxed her botox treatments we would not have a national debt.
.NEWS FLASH National health care take over through bribery and coercion, chi town dirty politics at its best.
Bill(s) will increase the deficit, create new taxes for every one (don’t fool yourself about the rich).
Either would kill jobs and wreck havoc to the health care industry and still leave 25 million people uninsured. Worst yet the Politician con men will be billing us for this 4 years before any benefits are realized.
They will do nothing but put the power of our health and wellbeing in the hands of the corrupt politicians. If the healthcare scam and cap and tax go through we will be totally owned by the UBERLEFT and their whims.
Welcome to the Amtrak of healthcare the public has been railroaded.
House Democrats should be planning for final destruction. Unlike the disenchantment with conservative Pres. Bush, people have become alienated at the millionaire socialists club called Congress. If they are allowed to pass this bill so it can't be overturned–revolution may ensue. Requiring people to buy a product that is marginally successful (healthcare) is like making them buy a Chevy. If you routinely drink the Chevy Kool-aid, you might be okay with that. If, like teh majority of Americans, you'd rather take your chances on a proven product–being required to buy a Chevy is considered intolerable on any level. Insurrection begins where common sense ends–it's true on every level. If you like revolution, keep voting for stealing freedom and weatlth from everyday Americans.
Lets pull up a chair, pop open a cold one and watch the fur fly as Harry and Nancy go at it. Each trying prove they are the real leader of this mess. You've got hand it to them, they know how to defeat themselves better than anyone else. This will prove to be more thrilling than a tractor pull but just as muddy as the dirt starts to sling amongst the Democrats.
Public Option is a "reality". AMERICA should stop being silly on the HEALTHCARE issue and pass a reasonable cost effective bill.
GREAT JOB DEMs....
It's about time our elected officials started caring about the welfare of their constituents.
Pelosi sickens me. I don't know why she wants to run up the deficit or ruin our healthcare system. She needs to be voted out of office.
I feel now that we have come to the final part of the bill some people are upset because they didnt get what they wanted but they sit and fuss over most of the summer over the Public Option well to me they should have stuck with it instead of compromising again and again even the Republicans had a chance to read the bill and do whatever then but they didnt act up until the bill got ready to pass. So what, the Public Option is not in the bill if tis only going to keep the Insurance honest then whats the big fuss about anyway? They still can find a way to get over even with the Public Option so as far as im concerned im just glad we finally have a bill so at least the ones without Health Insurance can get some relief and Thank GOD for what it will do for Pre-existing condition.