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.