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. Carl PA

    Has Obamacare taken effect already? I just got my health insurance premium renewal notice today and it has increased 88.8% from 2009.

    January 4, 2010 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  2. Buck Wheat

    Come on you Dem`s.....are you really that out of it?, or are you just wanting something for free? Please help me i just dont understand!

    January 4, 2010 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  3. Tina

    A man's/woman's word and handshake tells a person's integrity, ethics and morale. In the case of buying votes and secret deals to pass the vote, it tells what kind of Democratic government officials we have in Washington including the WhiteHouse. A "man's word is his dignity" and selling ones vote is so degrading - as such that the health care bill (in its RUSH to VOTE content) - showed to be a very depressing action for any man or human to sell ones vote for money - so undignified for the Democrats. Sorry to say this but based on past events, the true color and character or Democrat policitians said it all.

    January 4, 2010 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  4. Jane/Seattle

    This betrayal of the American taxpayer, to assist the already bloated profits of the healthcare lobby/industry, is a Crime against this Nation! It is a continuous slap in our Collective Face that we must even pay for all of this Profiteering, WARS, and Healthcare for the Elites who ignore our needs while controlling our hard earned money!

    January 4, 2010 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  5. Sam in Albuquerque

    The American people remember who ruined the economy, who ignored health care, and who ran up enormous debt. At least the Dems are willing to tackle the tough issues and make needed change, even if the Republicans are playing politics at the expense of the country, to line their pockets with more money.

    January 4, 2010 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  6. Billy J..Texas..

    I don't see all this bad news for the Democrats that folks say is going to happen for passing health care reform. Although it may not kick in quick enough for folks to see progress by the next election, the fact that people and their children can't be kicked off or denied because of a pre-existing condition is HUGE! If half the folks that benefit from that vote Dem next time.. the party will do just fine.

    January 4, 2010 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  7. Wheres Waldo,I mean Elrushbo?

    Without a Public Option this bill is no more than a gift to the Death Assurance Companies that already have "Death Panels".They make sure that 50 million Americans dont have health care and will die next year."Capitalism,a Death Story",should be the name of a new movie.

    January 4, 2010 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  8. Bpin

    The thing we are rushing to do is have something passed by the Failure of the.....I mean State of the BHO Union. Whatever it is that is passed. No time to think about what we should be doing with National Security or Al Q. We will wait until a real disaster strikes before we worry about that. We must get this failed legislation in so his entire speech can be dedicated to it. After all, this will pull all the flies away from the rest of the poop.

    January 4, 2010 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  9. Jacob

    thank you for taking your job seriously and actually working for the American people!

    January 4, 2010 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
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