Washington (CNN) - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday that Congress would pass a health care bill this year, while his counterpart in the House - Speaker Nancy Pelosi - outlined a two-step plan intended to maintain public focus on the issue.
"We're going to do health care reform this year," Reid told reporters, the day after President Barack Obama urged Congress in his State of the Union address to act on what was his top domestic priority in 2009. "The question is, at this stage, procedurally, how do we get where we need to go?"
Democratic hopes to get a bill to Obama's desk by now were derailed by the GOP's upset win in last week's special election to fill Ted Kennedy's Massachusetts Senate seat.
The win stripped Democrats of their 60-vote Senate super-majority and gave Republicans enough votes to block most legislation in the chamber. Democrats, who were in the process of combining previously passed House and Senate bills at the time of the election, have been struggling since to come up with a new legislative strategy.
Pelosi, a California Democrat, said Thursday that Congress "must take whatever time it takes" to pass a bill. She described a two-step process in which the House would likely vote in coming weeks on a series of specific health care provisions that have popular support.
At the same time, Pelosi said, work would continue on finding a way to pass a more comprehensive overhaul later.
Pelosi said the idea was to demonstrate continued momentum for some of the most important aspects of health care reform.
"That doesn't mean that it is a substitute for doing comprehensive" legislation, Pelosi said. "It means we will move on many fronts, any front we can."
Pelosi declined to identify which provisions the House might vote on separately, but said "they can move quickly."
A senior Democratic aide told CNN that leaders were considering votes on a series of bills before Congress is scheduled to take a week-long recess in mid-February. One of the bills could include a measure to repeal the antitrust exemption for insurance companies, a provision included in the House health care bill but left out of the Senate version.
As reported Wednesday by CNN, House Democrats believe that moving forward with some health care reforms that the public favors would demonstrate their resolve to work on a top priority issue during an election year.
However, several Democratic aides acknowledge it was unclear if the Senate also would pass the piecemeal health care measures.
At the same time, House Democratic leaders continue to negotiate several changes to the Senate's health care bill in order to get enough support to pass it in the House.
The bill then would go back to the Senate for a vote in the Senate under rules allowing approval by a simple majority, according to the House Democrats' plan.
"We're not talking about minor tweaks," Pelosi said.
House Democrats object to 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.
The White House has negotiated with labor leaders to modify the tax plan for expensive health policies by exempting many health plans covering union workers until 2017.
Pelosi indicated that some key insurance reforms, such as banning discrimination by insurers against people with pre-existing medical conditions, must be coupled with other major reform provisions.
"Otherwise, you have no leverage with the insurance companies" and they would likely increase rates, Pelosi said.
Republicans continued to criticize Democrats for moving forward with a plan they say the American people have rejected in recent elections.
House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said his party has a better solution to the proposal that Obama and Democratic leaders "are trying to shove down the throats of the American people."
In the Senate, some liberal Democrats have urged Reid to use a legislative tool known as reconciliation, which would allow some components of the health care bill to pass with only 51 votes.
Several progressive activists held a news conference Wednesday urging the Senate to pass a package of changes through the reconciliation process. Under that scenario, the House would then pass both the original Senate bill and the package of changes passed through reconciliation.
Some Democratic sources warn, however, that using reconciliation is complicated and fraught with legislative hurdles, raising questions about whether it could happen even if enough congressional Democrats supported the move.
Other Democrats in tough re-election fights worry voters will see such a move as legislative gimmickry, reinforcing complaints that Democratic control of Washington has been business as usual.
In the State of the Union speech, Obama acknowledged the health care issue has sown political division.
"This is a complex issue, and the longer it was debated, the more skeptical people became," Obama said. "I take my share of the blame for not explaining it more clearly to the American people. And I know that with all the lobbying and horse-trading, this process left most Americans wondering what's in it for them."
On Thursday, Reid, D-Nevada, linked health care reform to helping the U.S. economy recover fully from the recession.
"Health care reform is truly economic reform," he said.
–CNN's Dana Bash, Deirdre Walsh and Tom Cohen contributed to this report
Here it comes. A bid at getting around the will of the American people by using the reconciliation tact to get this money grabbing bill passed. If they proceed with this course they will be the cause of their own undoing!!! Arrogance at its finest!!!
These people either have a short memory or they just don't care what the public is saying. Slow down...get it right. If they don't their successor will.
I want the State of New York to get the same Medicare/Medicaid deal as Nebraska.
As a communist a disagree with the new health care bill if it is made to make the rich pay it creates more diviision and problems ,especially in times of econimc turmiol if its good enough for the people I feel Congress and all U.S citizens should have access to it .They are paying my tab since I am poor .A more equal society seems logical becuase it is not just the poor that hurt but the rich and middle classes are beocmign increasily unstable and fulll of much burdens ,most men keep their problems to themselves and do not like to blog and desire to bicker about their problems and friends but this way of life for many is not living but dying..
Equal health care for all people
Reid, Pelosi: You need to re-think this. Didn't you even read the papers last week and all the past several months? Don't you know you work for the American people, not the other way around?
They should not drop health care because it costs everyone to much the way it is. I agree with Landrieu that there should have been concensus in both houses on a bill because it did cause unwanted confusion for everyone. I do not agree with Landrieu that the Senate is not a major roadblock to any legislation. Every time good ideas leave the House, the Senate weakens it or it dies. He is saying what Americans feel.
I would only comment that Democrats must forget about the coming elections and work and pass legislation that moves change through our health care system...The Republicans will never cooperate...so Just go around them any way you can, because if you don't the Democratic Party will be known not as the Party of No, but the Party of Can't DO ANYTHING!
lolol....complete idiots...these democrats never learn.
" I take my share of the blame for not explaining it more clearly to the American people. And I know that with all the lobbying and horse-trading, this process left most Americans wondering what's in it for them." ... said President Obama
The American people who listen to Fox News and Cnn, know more than you do about what is in the bill. We don't like it. It is too convaluated. Perhaps we didn't make it clear enough to you over the summer with all of the demonstratiions, town hall meetings, and the
Scott Brown slam dunk. yes, we should have explained it to you better.
If you could pencil in some time on election day in November, we can get together then and come to an understanding.
I say if the republicans do not want to work with the democrats in earnest and honestly to complete the health care reform bill, then the democratic house should pass the senate verison and make the changes later.
I predict the republicans are going to keep pounding it because that way the lobbyists keep filing their pockets to stop the bill.
After the bill is passed then lobbyist money does not keep coming to stop the bill for it will be too late,
Yeah, and O.J. is still looking for the real Killer.
so why are Pelosi and Reid pushing it?......Ans: They are self-destructive and want to go down in flames...
"The question is, at this stage, procedurally, how do we get where we need to go?"
Wake up, Harry! Through budget reconciliation – how else?
Do you seriously think that Dems who have tough re-elections coming up soon are going to take orders from Harry Reid who is going to lose his senate seat in November? Or from Nancy Pelosi, who currently has the lowest approval rating of any elected official in U.S. history? Or from Obama who has personally flown to Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts to stump for dems there, only to lose all three to republican candidates? No way. The people want Bi-Partisan reform only! Start Over, Include everyone!
Get it done. Seriously, if you don't, the base will revolt and then we're back to unregulated industries and then a further push into our recession thanks to the policies pushed by Bush & Co. in 2001 – unfunded tax cuts that didn't trickle down; unfunded (and unnecessary) war in Iraq in 2003; unfunded Medicare Rx in 2005 (I think that's the correct yr).
So, do ALL of us a favor, including yourselves, and pass a meaningful bill. My 401k is finally starting to come back from the abyss. I don't want to see it go away again.
They can not win Helath Care reform without the support of the Americam people,who consistantly poll this legislation is not good; nor can they win it without some bipatisian cooperation. It has to be more then just Olympia Snow.
Again they miss the crux of why the Mass vote happened. Reid and Pelosi want to get us to focus on what THEY want, rather than listen to what the PEOPLE want or don't want. They're trying to find how they can PROCEDURALLY get what THEY want rather than listen to what WE want or don't want. They will move on "any front we can" rather than admit that what THEY want is NOT what WE want. Arrogance and business as usual in washington. Yet again, the politicos in power hear the voice of the people, and ignore it. This is why Brown was put in office, to stop this kind of political manuvering.
The disarray of the Democrats is plainly visible to all Americans. The Democrats are impotent and devoid of any coherent leadership in the White House, Senate and the House of Representatives. The danger of this situation is that this lack of leadership is also evident to the enemies of the United States.
A community organizer should have never been elected President of the United States. Obama is rapidly becoming JIMMY CARTER, VERSION 2.0.
"Republicans continued to criticize Democrats for moving forward with a plan they say the American people have rejected in recent elections."
What the Republicans mistakenly do is assume that a majority of those opposing healthcare reform do so for the same reasons they opppose it. That is not true..
Add the public option back into the scenario and once again a majority of citizens in this country would support the effort... Support only waned when the negotitated the public option out of the deal..
What does it take to get through to idiots????
The people don't want your blooming bill......kill it!
Harry and Nancy are determined to drive that bus over the cliff, aren't they?
Hope they take the rest of the Progressives with them....................
Seems to me there are two parties of No when it comes to Health Care. The Dems who say No to anything the Repubs have to offer and the Repubs who say No to the exclusively Dem bill. I for one am glad the Repubs are being the party of No on this subject!
The people do not want either the House or Senate bill. The people want congress to stop the process and start over and listen to what voters want in the bill. But if congress does go forward with the current bills, any negoiations to merge the two into one should be aired on C-Span and include Republicans in the process.
cram it down our thoart....WE THE PEOPLE>>>>do not want this...where are the people who want this...who are they??????PLEASE help me out............I don't see people around in favor of this crap...
Health Care reform is absolutely necessary, but so is doing it right. Absolute transparency is required and full participation by both parties is also required. It has been apparent for some time that the Democrats want this feather in their cap and don't want to share the glory with the Republicans. This is wrong headed.
The bill needs to be explained to the "people" before anything else is done and an invitation to the Republicans, done with sincerety should be on the agenda. It is not to late to admit a mistake and do it right.