January 5th, 2010
10:28 AM ET
8 years ago

Obama and top Dems meet on health care

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will team up with the top Democrats in Congress late Tuesday afternoon to discuss heath care reform strategy.

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will team up with the top Democrats in Congress late Tuesday afternoon to discuss heath care reform strategy.

Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will team up with the top Democrats in Congress late Tuesday afternoon to discuss heath care reform strategy.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer will meet with Obama and Biden in person in the Oval Office, while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Majority Whip Dick Durbin will join by telephone. The White House confirms that the meeting will focus on the Democrats drive for health care reform, as well as other legislative priorities.

"The purpose of this meeting is to get everyone back in step after a well-deserved holiday break. The President and the Leaders will discuss the path forward on health care, but other topics and priorities for 2010 will also be on the agenda," a White House official told CNN.

The House passed its health care reform bill on November 7, and the Senate passed its own version on Christmas Eve. Now comes the tough task of merging the two bills into one piece of legislation. The bills differ in many ways, most importantly over the creation of a new government-run public health insurance option, anti-abortion funding provisions, anti-illegal immigration provisions, the costs of the bills, and how they are funded. (View a comparison of the two bills [PDF])

The Democrats in the the Senate, needing all 60 votes in their coalition to pass the bill, have basically no margin for error.  Several moderate members of that coalition who voted for the bill last month, including Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Ben Nelson of Nebraska, say any major changes to the Senate legislation could force them to vote against the final merged bill with the House.

Senior Democratic sources say a formal House-Senate conference committee 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 has yet to be formally scheduled. 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."

- CNN's Dana Bash, Deirdre Walsh, Suzanne Malveaux and Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report

Filed under: Health care
soundoff (44 Responses)
  1. USN

    The "OPEN administration " is deciding your health care ( power / money grab ) behind closed doors. Welcome to Russia .

    January 5, 2010 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  2. Geez

    The majority of Americans favor the public option. In a real democracy, that should be the end of the story, but somehow the conservatives with their anti-abortion, hypocritical snow job they have perpetrated upon naive, but well-intentioned Americans has again thwarted the will of the public. We will be a better country once people begin to realize the current Republicans are NOT pro-life, NOT pro-democracy, and if you read about the pre-Reagan history of the Republican party, NOT even Republican.

    January 5, 2010 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  3. m jeff

    Let's get this reform done.

    January 5, 2010 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  4. Clint

    Get it done, with a public option, and do not fall prey to the petty delaying tactics of the GOP and their health care industry backers. Keep on course.

    January 5, 2010 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  5. Ron in California

    I think it is shameful that the Dems are going to do all this work in closed sessions excluding members of Congress who represent the views of millions of Americans. What happenend to all those Campaign promises of Obama, Pelosi and Reid about transparency. It is that you simply cannot trust politicians. How many deals and at what cost to us will be made. Shameful.

    You know how tell if a politician is lying? His lips are moving.

    January 5, 2010 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  6. I just visited Kaiser

    3 hour wait to get in to the emergency room

    3 hours, I talked to the nurses and told them my 4 year old kid was in serious pain

    after we finally got in, no doctors anywhere, no nurses

    what are they on perpetual break?

    then, no blood work, sent us home, only to have it re-occur and be back for the same wait two days later, and same staffing of Rn and MDs

    seriously, the medical profession feels they are elite and entitled to make us wait, over charge us and claim it is not their responsibility

    I think all you health care defenders really are causing our best and brightest to move to other countries, Canada, France, Sweden etc

    Very much out of hand, and we the public are putting up with it

    January 5, 2010 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  7. Scott, Tucson

    And of course this will be done behind close doors with no C-SPAN or other cameras in the room, so much for obama's pledge for transparency, just another lie to the American people.

    January 5, 2010 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  8. Greg Pottstown PA

    This just demonstrates that Obama lied to the people when he talked about working across the isle. It also shows how one sided Obama is.Bush worked in a way less partisan way than Obama. So much for an end to partisan politics.

    January 5, 2010 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  9. Kat

    They are determined to push this crap through. These idiots are ruining this country.

    January 5, 2010 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  10. Four and The Door

    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 has yet to be formally scheduled.
    It's clear that all of this effort concerning health care insurance has been more about the Democratic politicians than the American people. Look at the bills that have been proposed. They are a lousy deal for the country but all about slapping something together and getting enough Democrats to sign up for it to get it done on their political timeline. Then, unfortunately Americans have to live with it and try to pay for it.

    January 5, 2010 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  11. Jim in Missouri

    When are the Republicans going to realize that something needs to be done to make sure the majority of Americans have health insurance. Sure rich people like Rush Gas Bag who make over 25 million dollars a year can afford to get sick, but the middle class is getting benefits taken away at an alarming rate. They need to work for us, and not just be against anything the Democrats put forth, after all the economy went to pot on their watch. Eight years of helping only the rich, we need to keep working for the poor, and the middle class.

    January 5, 2010 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  12. tjaman

    Stay strong, stay focused, and I bet you can find 50 senators to support a public option so ram that thing through on reconciliation, Reid! w00t!

    January 5, 2010 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  13. mjm

    No formal conference, huh? How democratic is that? The bill is so bad they can't even discuss it in conference. It must be a real winner.

    The Republicans should have done this when the Democrats were holding up the Civil Rights Act.

    January 5, 2010 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  14. Jim

    I'd like to see republicans there, as well. we're all tired of their nay-saying obstructionist games. it's time they begin to be part of the solutioln instead of being part of the problem

    January 5, 2010 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  15. Massachusetts Senate Election could be a fly in the ointment

    There is a possible fly in the ointment for passing this horrible health care bill, and that is the looming senate election in 2 weeks in Massachusetts to replace the senate seat of Ted Kennedy. Should the Republican candidate win it tilts the entire balance of power in the Senate to 59 Dems including Liberman and Sanders of VT and 41 Republicans -- this Massachusetts election could decide whether health care passes. The GOP pught to ramp up support for its underdog candidate and try to get him elected on a sinigle issue - health care. Vote in the Dem and you get this bad bill; vote in the republican, and this bill goes into the bi partisan deliberation mode it should have followed in the first place.

    January 5, 2010 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  16. Aunt Bea and Opie

    It better have a Public Option,period.

    January 5, 2010 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  17. dan

    good to see the two of them together.......

    January 5, 2010 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  18. chubby

    Ah, the three stooges meet again,nobama, pelosi and reid.

    January 5, 2010 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  19. LacrosseMom

    Thank you, Congress & President Obama for passing Healthcare!

    Perhaps, now 45,000 Americans will not die in 2010 because they will have access to healthcare!

    What's disturbing is that the GOP get all upset about an "attempted attack" but......... 45,000 Americans DIED THIS YEAR from lack of healthcare and that was okay with the GOP!

    January 5, 2010 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  20. File under "Sarcasm"

    What time will it be on CSPAN? I know President Obama is going to keep his promise of a transparent, bi-partisan process to solve our problems.

    On a more realistic note, how many dollars in pork barrel bribes do you think will be added on to this government takeover of the health care system.

    January 5, 2010 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  21. michael armstrong sr. TX.

    The sooner we get rid of this lady the better off we will all be .

    January 5, 2010 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  22. Oompa Loompa

    A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men. Maybe they'll have a lollipop while they're figuring out how to screw America.

    January 5, 2010 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  23. Fed Up

    What "strategy" could there be? You own the House and Senate, according to you. Pass it and get it over with.

    January 5, 2010 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  24. Randolph Carter, I'm no expert but...

    Good, maybe they'll sneak some real reform into the final bill. Oh wait, I forgot, their corporate masters will not let this happen. Thanks for nothing, congress critters. Have a nice day!

    January 5, 2010 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  25. Minnesotan

    We want a PUBLIC OPTION! Especially if health insurance becomes a mandatory expense for everyone. Without the Public Option, it's just another bailout for corporate America and the crooked Republicans.

    January 5, 2010 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
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