January 4th, 2010
03:57 PM ET
8 years ago

Dem leaders return early to prep for health care negotiations

Washington (CNN) - The House of Representatives doesn't officially return from its holiday break until next week, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, other top House Democratic leaders and committee chairmen will return to Washington this week to prepare for health care negotiations with the Senate, two Democratic leadership aides tell CNN.

First, Pelosi is scheduled to huddle in her office with other House Democratic leaders Tuesday afternoon. On Thursday, House Democratic leaders plan a conference call with all House Democrats. A similar House Democratic conference call was held December 23, on the eve of the Senate's health care passage, to begin discussing the differences between the two bills. Since then, House Democratic aides have drafted an analysis laying out the differences between the House and Senate bills.

House Democratic leaders are also likely to meet with President Obama as soon as this week, but Democratic leadership aides say a meeting hasn't officially been scheduled yet.

Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid spoke once by phone about health care over the holiday break, according to aides to both, but broader talks have yet to begin.

When House and Senate negotiations to meld the health care bills do start, senior Democratic sources say a formal House-Senate conference is unlikely because of the Republicans' ability to slow the process in the Senate.

In order to hold a formal conference, conferees - members of the House and Senate - must be formally appointed by both bodies with resolutions passed by both the Senate and the House. One Democratic leadership aide says getting those resolutions passed could delay and even derail Democratic efforts, because Republicans would be allowed to offer amendments and hold lengthy debates on the resolutions to appoint conferees.

For that reason, several Democratic sources say they will probably hold informal, high level House-Senate negotiations to hash out differences on health care legislation, without holding a formal conference. Though these sources stress that no formal decision has been made.

Beyond the mechanics of House and Senate negotiations, the Democrats' timetable for finding agreement and getting a final bill to President Obama remains murky.

Several Democratic sources say they hope to get a bill to the president's desk by early February, around the time of his State of the Union address, which still hasn't been officially scheduled yet.

But Speaker Pelosi already admitted last month that this deadline could slip, and both House and Senate Democratic leadership aides stressed to CNN that while leaders want to move forward as soon as possible, "there is no hard and fast deadline."

To meld their health care bills, Democrats must bridge some major differences on several thorny issues.

Democratic divisions over abortion made passing initial health care bills in both the House and the Senate difficult. The House abortion language is more restrictive than what passed the Senate. There is also disagreement between the two chambers on how to pay for health care reform. Many House Democrats oppose the so-called "Cadillac tax" on high-end insurance plans that passed the Senate, and instead want to maintain a tax on wealthy Americans included in the House bill.

The House health care bill contains a government run insurance option, but Democratic aides in both chambers say that will likely be dropped from a final bill, because Democrats don't have the votes to pass a public option in the Senate.

The House is back in session next Tuesday, January 12. The Senate returns the following week, on January 19.

Filed under: Democrats • Health care • House • Senate
soundoff (34 Responses)
  1. Moderate Democrat

    Imagine that, people going to work early. Something republicans wouldn't know anything about. All they know how to do is discuss "not going to work'.....see the tea bagger story. Yes, once again they are refusing to work, which is simply normal for them.

    January 4, 2010 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  2. Mike Syracuse, NY

    Obama's bipartisanship in action. If they could ever get their act together Democrats have the votes to pass whatever they want. So what's the harm in allowing Republicans into the process? Are they afraid some amendments that actually make sense might get through?

    January 4, 2010 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  3. mjm

    One Democratic leadership aide says getting those resolutions passed could delay and even derail Democratic efforts, because Republicans would be allowed to offer amendments and hold lengthy debates on the resolutions to appoint conferees.

    Yes, the last thing we want is an actual discussion or a debate regarding this 2100 page, $867 billion disaster.

    This just goes to show that the Democrats do not want any input from anyone other than the unions and the drug companies.

    They can't even follow Senate/House rules. They just make it up as they go.

    January 4, 2010 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  4. Dave

    They're just trying to figure out to get final passage on a bill that the majority is against and that is going to get them in a bad way come 2012.

    January 4, 2010 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  5. ebooggie

    Without the public option this bill is useless! The only thing it will do is force you to become a customer of overpriced insurance companies. And because they have spent so much money trying to defeat this bill their premiums will have to increase to make up for it. Thanks a lot Dems!

    January 4, 2010 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  6. mjm

    "Many House Democrats oppose the so-called "Cadillac tax" on high-end insurance plans that passed the Senate"

    You got to love a health care bill that punishes people for having coverage considered to be too good.

    The Dems want you to have insurance, just not great insurance. And they will punish you with a 40% tax if you have excessive coverage.

    January 4, 2010 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  7. Cameron Daley

    Be aware, Democraps, that you are not doing any good for this country with this so-called healthcare bill. What helth care is in the bill? Isn't it really just about takeover of the medical insurance industry? This is further burdening the American taxpayers - and we don't want it and don't like it and will get it fixed as soon as we can.

    January 4, 2010 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  8. Mike

    If this ends up being a big issue concerning the 2010 vote, put me in the column FOR the Democrats.....Republicans did nothing to move HealthCare Reform through this year – NOTHING. They played games while the Democratic party hashed out some VERY difficult negotiations. What made the negotiations so difficult was the fact that they needed EVERY Democratic member in the Senate to vote FOR it in order to overcome a Republican filibuster.

    January 4, 2010 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  9. Four and The Door

    There is also disagreement between the two chambers on how to pay for health care reform.
    Why don't they just say they will save the whole $1 trillion by having the NEXT congress cut Medicare expenses and then it will be a done deal! Think about the political benefits of this. We all know the next congress will be heavily Republican and so dump it on them.

    Okay, that would be a cop-out, sleazy thing to do. So keep it like they have it now and only dump $400 billion of cost cuts for them to make. That's also a cop-out, sleazy thing to do but since Obama already said it's okay to govern like this, who are they to argue?

    January 4, 2010 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  10. James Napoli

    This makes great sense. It would be great for the nation to have the bill passed very soon in 2010. There are so many other issues that need attention.

    January 4, 2010 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  11. democratsruinwhattheytouch

    They are saying "how are we going to fool them today." It is what a democrat gets up saying every morning.

    January 4, 2010 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  12. Carl Justus

    Madam Speaker, get the health care reform bill past. Whatever it takes except bribery to get it done. Also get out the Nebraska windfall and treat all states with the same honesty and dignity they deserve. We do not need to start buying or selling votes.

    If it takes buying or selling votes then throw the bill in the trash and take your punishment when November comes and you lose the house and your speaker's job, and it could be your seat that will go along with rest.

    January 4, 2010 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  13. if you want something ruined, put a republican in charge

    This is so important, just get health reform done. Then you can deal with the republicans main issue: they are afraid, and need reassurance.

    The republicans are fearful that they will be the victims of terrorists, and we need to protect them against 1.5 billion muslims. Even Cheney, who seldom left his bunker, saw his shadow, and it scared the crap out of him.

    January 4, 2010 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  14. all the news that's fit to omit

    "Prep" according to the progressives dictionary – To lie and obfuscate as in "to gather talking points that the liberal sheeple can run around chanting as in "HOPENCHANGE".

    2010, November to be precise is when this "bill" starts being taken apart, so PLEASE pass it, WE will dismantle it, one vote at a time.

    This is going to be beautiful, say goodnight progressives......

    January 4, 2010 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  15. Idiot_Pelosi

    Pelosi needs to resign. She is an absolute joke.

    January 4, 2010 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  16. Mississippi Mrs.

    No matter what Harry Reid, Pelosi and President Obama do in the future... we wil NOT forget how they wanted to pass this mess back in August when it was very much of a public option. This President is
    amazing, and I mean that in the worst possible way. Amazing.

    We are entrenched to vote these people out and there is absolutely nothing that they can do about it. 2010 and America Begins to be free of them. Vote Conservative in 2010!!!!!

    January 4, 2010 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  17. LacrosseMom

    Wow.... some of the comments by the GOPers are as usual incredible.

    Some of the dollar amounts being thrown out here, are fabricated!

    IF our government is serious about taking on Medicare fraud (the Bush administration did very little) we WILL BE ABLE to PAY FOR Healthcare easily!

    Its about time Congress gets back to work early! Come on, Dems, get on with it!

    January 4, 2010 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  18. Bob Semler

    If you want ANY health care bill to pass with approval of the majority of the American public it MUST: 1) Treat all States the same. No special deals, 2) Treat all users of the health care system – this includes the 10m+ illegals in this country, the same. 3) Pay NOTHING for the murder of the unborn (you call it abortion). 4) Contain NO government option. 5) Contain no additional government control, other than those in place already. We already have the best health care in the world. All we need is some control over the cost. And if you have all users of the system paying their fair share, the cost will come down.

    January 4, 2010 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  19. Steph

    Thank you! Keep working on this until we have the much needed reform. It may not be perfect, but it's definately better than what we currently have. As someone who has worked her entire adult life and is still afraid of losing my health insurance due to a pre-existing condition, I thank you for all of your hard work!

    January 4, 2010 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  20. phoenix86

    They are going to find out if Bait & Switch 2 works as well as Bait & Switch 1 did.

    January 4, 2010 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  21. MatthewDetroit

    Napolitano needs to be forced out as Homeland Security...

    She has no idea what she is doing and is way over her head.
    It was a very naive and bad choice by barack.

    Fix it barack... she is going to get us killed.

    January 4, 2010 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  22. ThinkAgain

    First of all, thanks to those who worked hard to pass health care reform legislation!

    I believe the following are extremely important and must be part of the final bill:

    – A robust public option to guarantee true competition in the health care marketplace

    – No exclusions for pre-existing conditions

    – No "trigger"

    – No Stupak-type amendments

    These changes would result in a healthier, more productive populace. This is a win-win for both families and business.

    January 4, 2010 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  23. gary davis Harbor Oregon proud american

    get back at it and make health care reform a good new year start,, and we don't need republican support . and we don't need the republican party of NO so we come together and make it happen 🙂

    January 4, 2010 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  24. ThinkAgain

    Everyone knows that preventive medicine is a lot cheaper than severely ill people showing up at the emergency room; everyone knows that if small business don't have to spend as much money on insuring their workers, they have more to invest in their business; and everyone knows that workers are more productive if they don't have to worry about losing everything should they or someone in their family becomes ill.

    How to pay for health care reform:

    1. Eliminate the FICA tax cap on income above $90,000. This would generate a huge source of funds. (Right now, no FICA is paid on individual income above $90,000.)

    2. Change the top tax rate to what it was under Ronald Reagan: 39%. Right now, the top rate is 36%; people making higher incomes can afford to pay an additional 3%.

    Are these "taxes on the rich?" Yes, they are. And the wealthy can certainly afford it. After all, it's the least they can do for the country that has given them the opportunity to create their wealth in the first place.

    January 4, 2010 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  25. MatthewDetroit

    Time to put Barack the socialist back in his little box...
    Send this clown back to Chicago.

    He is ruining health care..
    He has ruined the economy..
    He spends money like a child with their fathers credit card...
    National security is down the tubes...
    Flying is now even more dangerous then ever..
    His appointees are all a joke...
    Get rid of barack.

    January 4, 2010 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
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