January 21st, 2010
07:00 PM ET
4 years ago

Pelosi: House won't support Senate bill, at least for now

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that the House does not have the votes to support the current Senate health care bill.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that the House does not have the votes to support the current Senate health care bill.

Washington (CNN) - The Senate health care bill has too many unpopular provisions to win approval from the House at this time, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday.

Pelosi's comment to reporters appeared to dash the chances that Democrats will take the easiest route for passing a health care bill - having the House approve the Senate version unchanged.

"I don't think it's possible to pass the Senate bill in the House," Pelosi said. "I don't see the votes for it at this time."

She insisted that all options remain open, but also signaled possible agreement with President Barack Obama's comment Wednesday that scaling back the legislation estimated to cost almost $1 trillion over 10 years might be the preferred option.

Congressional Democrats have been reconsidering their strategy after a Republican victory in Tuesday's special Senate election in Massachusetts, which stripped Senate Democrats of the 60-seat super-majority needed to overcome a GOP filibuster.

Scott Brown's win in one of the most progressive states in the nation raised already-high anxiety levels among Democrats looking ahead to midterm elections.

Administration officials and top congressional Democrats are reviewing a diminished range of options to pass a health care bill and salvage victory on Obama's top domestic priority. The White House and Democratic leaders were trying to merge separate versions of health care bills passed by the House and Senate when Brown's election changed the political landscape.

Obama called Democratic leaders including Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer on Thursday to discuss options for progress, White House spokesman Bill Burton confirmed.

Pelosi, a California Democrat, said the Senate bill has "certain things that (House) members just cannot support." She cited a provision worked in by Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson that exempts his state from paying increased Medicaid expenses, and a 40 percent excise tax on insurance companies that provide the most expensive health insurance coverage.

According to Pelosi, two options for the House are to pass the Senate bill with changes and send the measure back to the Senate, or to focus on particular segments of the bill considered non-controversial.

"We have to get a bill passed. We know that," Pelosi said, later adding: "I don't think anybody disagrees with 'let's pass the popular part of the bill.'"

However, she noted that "some of that popular part of the bill is the engine that drives some of the rest of it."

Both Pelosi and White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Democrats would take time to assess their options in the wake of Brown's election in Massachusetts.

"The president believes it's the right thing to do, to let the dust settle, and give those on Capitol Hill some time to search for the best path forward," Gibbs said Thursday.

"We are not in a big rush: pause, reflect upon what our possibilities are, see what the support is in the caucus," Pelosi said. "We have to always go where we can build consensus."

On Wednesday, Obama said in interview with ABC News that he "would advise that we try to move quickly to coalesce around those elements of the package that people agree on."

"We know that we need insurance reform, that the health insurance companies are taking advantage of people," Obama said. "We know that we have to have some form of cost containment because if we don't, then our budgets are going to blow up."

Several rank-and-file Democrats said the less controversial provisions also include barring discrimination by insurers based on pre-existing conditions and closing the Medicare "doughnut hole" to bring down prescription drug costs.

"There are great concerns about the health insurance system and the kind of power that the insurance people have over people to deny care, to raise rates and so on," White House strategist David Axelrod told CNN Wednesday. Obama is "not going to walk away from that," Axelrod said.

Republicans have been unanimous in opposing the health care bill, and House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio said Thursday that the existing measures should be scrapped.

"Our goal is to stop this monstrosity and we're working with our members so that we don't find ourselves in a position where they're able to pick off a few of our members and to get this bill passed," Boehner said. "We need to stop, scrap the bill and start over. And start over in a bipartisan way."

Pelosi, however, questioned whether any common ground exists to work with Republicans on the issue.

"They have made it clear they are not for health care reform," she said. "We are, and so to the extent we can find common ground between those two differences remains to be seen."

Pelosi insisted that the health care bill was not the reason for the Democratic loss in the Massachusetts Senate election, saying the main issue on the minds of voters was the nation's 10 percent unemployment rate.

"The jobs issues has permeated every major initiative that we have," Pelosi said, later adding that "perhaps we haven't been clear enough about the focus and purpose, or the connection" between Democratic priorities such as health care reform and the nation's overall economic health.

Rep. Janice Schakowsky, D-Illinois, said Thursday that Democrats must adopt a stronger populist tone to clarify how health care reform is in the interest of the middle class.

"There is enormous support for doing health care, but the feeling is, the message - how this is going to help the American people - has been clouded by the insurance industry and by the Republicans," Schakowsky said. "We've got to be able to go out there and show people we are on their side and fighting for them. People in Massachusetts weren't seeing Democrats on their side, fighting for them. And we've got to do better. We have to have a populist, strong posture."

Another option raised Wednesday by a key labor union would be a two-step process for passing a health care bill.

"The House should pass the Senate's health insurance reform bill - with an agreement that it will be fixed, fixed right, and fixed right away through a parallel process," said Andy Stern, head of the Service Employees International Union. However, some House Democrats indicated they lacked confidence the Senate would make the necessary adjustments in the future.

A further option is to revisit the idea of trying to push health care through the Senate with only 51 votes - a simple majority.

To do that, Democrats would have to use a process known as reconciliation, which is limited to legislation affecting the budget and therefore could only apply to parts of the health care package.

Rep. Lynn Woolsey, the California Democrat who chairs the Progressive Caucus of liberal House members, outlined a plan in which the House would approve a health care package negotiated by the White House that combines the bills previously passed by the House and Senate.

According to Woolsey, the Senate would then pass as much of the package as it could under reconciliation procedures, needing only 51 votes. In addition, the Senate also would pass an accompanying measure - under normal procedure which would require 60 votes to overcome a filibuster - with as much of the rest of the House-passed version as possible. The House would then have to approve the Senate measures to send them to Obama's desk.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Montana, told CNN Wednesday that he thinks reconciliation will be necessary to pass a health care bill in the chamber. However, multiple Democratic aides - and some representatives - warned that using the reconciliation process would take time and possibly evoke criticism of relying on a procedural trick to pass a bill.

"It looks too partisan," said Rep. Gerry Connolly, a freshman Democrat from Virginia, while Democratic Rep. Earl Pomeroy of North Dakota likened the move to "legislative trickery."

In addition, many Democrats are eager to put the health care debate behind them and move on to economic issues, such as job creation, as soon as possible in this election year.

"If there's anybody in this building that doesn't tell you they're more worried about (the November) elections today, you should absolutely slap them," Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, said Wednesday. "That's what this place thrives on."

–CNN's Ted Barrett, Dana Bash, Evan Glass, Suzanne Malveaux, Alan Silverleib, Deirdre Walsh and Tom Cohen contributed to this report

(Updated at 7:00 p.m. EST)


Filed under: Democrats • Health care • House • Nancy Pelosi
soundoff (41 Responses)
  1. spencer blair

    Bury the bill next to Teddy.

    January 21, 2010 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  2. Lotta Muni

    Will someone please this hag off of the field? She more than anyone is responsible for the Mass. upset with her intolerance of the right and middle.

    January 21, 2010 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  3. Orange Curtain, CA

    It was too much of a sell-out to appease Joe Lieberman, Ben Nelson and the lobbyists. No public option? No medicare expansion for people 55 – 65? Forget it. Everyone is angry about Ben Nelson in particular and how Joe Lieberman is such a flip-flopper. First he proposed Medicare expansion...now he says against it.

    January 21, 2010 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  4. File under "Sarcasm"

    Back pedal as fast as you can Nancy from your earlier rhetoric.

    No way can you pass this abomination of a healthcare bill unless half the Democrat causus is willing to "fall on their swords" for you and get voted out of office in November.

    Better wait until President Obama does a better job explaining (again) why we all need to trash the economy by passing your pork laden, bribe filled, special interest written take over of health care.

    January 21, 2010 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  5. lifelong democrat

    Nancy don't worry, a lot of you would be voted out of office. You've squandered our trust in you. With your push, our debt now is way above our eyeballs. I love my party, BUT I hate the people in it; you've given no option but to vote you all out of office. We need legislators that represent OUR WILL, not their party's agenda.

    There are many of us lifelong democrats who'll cross the line this November and join independent voters, no amount of cajoling, sugar coating, blame Bush will work, we've had enough of it. You don't know what is RESPONSIBILITY and ACCOUNTABILITY, it is always somebody's fault. I say, as a lifelong democrat, it's ALL YOUR FAULT, it is my party's FAULT. GROW UP!

    January 21, 2010 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  6. Angus McDugan

    At least not until the next round of elections are over.

    January 21, 2010 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  7. the right reform

    The bill is way too complex and costly–without making healthcare more affordable (or even covering everyone).

    Healthcare reform needs to 'attack' inefficiencies, problems one at a time. Our country is too big to risk 1/6th of the economy for political purposes.

    (Republican, Independants and Democrats all want reform in the healthcare arena. We just have different solutions)

    January 21, 2010 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  8. Steve (the real one)

    Seen the writing on the wall and shaken by what happened in Massachuetts, maybe?

    January 21, 2010 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  9. ck

    Nancy, Nancy, Nancy...

    you saw what happened in Mass. It WILL happen again in November... and that includes in California!

    AMERICA IS WAKING UP!! HOOORAY!!!

    January 21, 2010 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  10. Franky, Land of Lincoln

    If this bill passes(hypothetically), I'm surious to see the reaction of the American people. But that's just me and as kind, young kid, all I know it will have an impact on a future job I will get later on and by the way, do our leaders really know the cost of such a measure? What does the Congressional Budget Overview say?

    In my opinion, I don't think we really know the cost of this bill, but that's just my opinion. I don't think is that it won't matter but with a crisis we are in, the complications we are having, the procedures we are taking, etc, who really knows for sure how much it will cost. I don't believe nobody, I don't and Dems are no different cause they wasted over or nearly 1.5 trillion dollars on stimulis, war, education, etc. And where are the results?

    It may be too early but if I had to guess, only about a quarter of the stimulis has been spent. Before you know it, 2020 comes, then is only half of that.

    Is just disorganized, misinterpreted, intricately awful, logistically unexplained, etc. And what did they told us when the stimulis passed? That money was gonna go quick? And look at what happen, what makes you think Health Care is no different. It ain't the free market, is more like a crack market we have now, is just plain awful.

    January 21, 2010 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  11. Fair is Fair

    This proves 2 things.

    First, the bill is so unpopular that the only way they weere going to get it through was ramrod style. Didn't see Senator Brown on the horizon, did you Nancy and Harry?

    Second, even with overwhelming majorities, the democrats can't get anything done. Remember, they had enough votes to get what they wanted long before the Massachusetts Miracle.

    You can only conclude that they're going to scrap the whole thing to save their political skin.

    You dems must be so proud.

    January 21, 2010 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  12. Enough

    Earth calling Pelosi.............we don't want this bill, did you miss the message from Coakleys loss?

    January 21, 2010 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  13. If you want something ruined, put a republican in charge

    It is time to take the worthless republicans to task, and force them to filibuster against health reform for the American people. Democrats need to stand up and act like a real party. Remember, George Bush got his tax cuts, that have almost destroyed us, passed with only 50 votes.

    Kick some republican butt!

    January 21, 2010 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  14. Obama = WORST president EVER

    Ha-ha. Pelosi is a joke.

    January 21, 2010 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  15. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    Pelosi and the Democratic Party are looking desperately for a face- and career-saving way out of the health care welfare trap they got themselves stuck in. If they just drop it, the left-wing Dems will hang them; if they continue to push it, the moderate Dems will hang them. My guess is they're going to just try to forget it ever happened, and hope the rest of the country does too.

    Too bad for them that the Republicans aren't going to let that happen. When this year's campaigning starts up, we;re going to see a lot of ads about "Look at what the Democrats plotted and schemed to do to you! Look at the enormous amount of money they wanted to waste! The only way to protect yourself from the schemes, greed, and irresponsibility of the Democratic Party is to vote Republican!"

    January 21, 2010 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  16. inofritzn

    So now that they can't jam it down our throats it's time to "scale back" the cost? These people make me so sick. Self serving, both sides.

    January 21, 2010 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  17. no2gop

    With the recent supreme court ruling on corporate donations to political campaigns our health premiums are going to skyrocket to pay for the influence in Washington. Just pass a bill that prevents pre-existing condition exclusions, dropping the insured when they get sick and put some limits on premium increases. Then let the Republicans filibuster for as long as they want.

    January 21, 2010 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  18. howie

    Thank you, thank you thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    January 21, 2010 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  19. Obama Victim

    suffer left wing losers...............................SUFFER

    January 21, 2010 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  20. single mom

    Remember how on November 5, 2008, Democrats were crowing that the Republican party was dead? All any non-Democrat heard was "You lost. Get over it." Even the President said it.
    What they didn't realize is that Americans weren't so much voting FOR Democrats, as AGAINST the status quo. Really, any Democrat would have won against the Republican candidate, regardless of race or gender. The Democrats had an opportunity but not the subtlety to handle what they had. The Democratic leaders listed all the things the were going to push through because they were convinced they had the power and right.
    Realizing what they'd ended up with, people showed up at the town hall meetings to protest the health care bills. So far, three states – VA, NJ and MA – have sent clear messages to the Democrats – you work for us and if we don't like what you're doing, we will find someone else to do the job.
    Considering the talk the past couple days, I don't think the Democrats will figure things out in the next ten months.

    January 21, 2010 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  21. Gary's Opinion

    Both the house and senate bills really sucked! How about some malpractice reform? How about drug importation from Canada? How about NO NEW TAXES!!!!!!!

    Listen to the people Nancy, or we will kick you all out of office...

    January 21, 2010 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  22. kd

    oh, replace her already.

    January 21, 2010 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  23. Mitchell from MS

    Man....The dems had the votes to pass this garbage bill without the GOP and they still could not get it done. Poor leadership from the top down is to blame.

    January 21, 2010 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  24. K(DC)

    We already know what the repubs are about self and big business. the Democrats have squandered every opportunity they had to pass a good Health Insurance law with their crappy in-fighting and what's in it for me, instead of how can I best help the American people. All they have to do is look in the mirror and the boozo will be staring back at them.We want forget.

    January 21, 2010 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  25. Buck Wheat

    Wow...someone is waking up!

    January 21, 2010 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
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