March 7th, 2010
03:02 PM ET
4 years ago

Dems make no promises on WH timeline for health care bill

Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen, center, said Sunday that his party does not currently have 'a mortal lock' on the necessary votes to pass health care reform in the House.
Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen, center, said Sunday that his party does not currently have 'a mortal lock' on the necessary votes to pass health care reform in the House.

Washington (CNN) - Despite a call from the White House for health care legislation to pass this month, key Democrats on Sunday avoided any promises about how soon the next steps may come.

"I believe it will pass. Do we have a mortal lock? No," Rep. Chris Van Hollen, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told CNN's "State of the Union."

Questions remain about specifics of the final legislation, and until then "it's going to be hard to get people to commit" to a vote in the House, he added.

The president's own secretary of Health and Human Services skirted repeated questions about the timeline set by the White House.

"I think the president has called for an up or down vote. I'm confident that we'll have that up or down vote," Kathleen Sebelius told NBC's "Meet the Press." Pressed about whether the president would come back to the legislation if it does not pass this month, she responded, "I think it's realistic because the American people are desperate for something to help them."

She added, "the time clock is not about... a Congressional tick-tock - what Americans want is something to be done."

The administration has called for the sweeping legislation to be at the president's desk before the Easter vacation at the end of the month. And it has set an even earlier date for the House to vote on the Senate's version of the bill - one of two major steps in passing the bill.

"The president leaves for Indonesia and Australia on March 18th, and... I believe that, based on conversations that I've had in the building, that we're on schedule to get this through the House by then," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters Thursday.

The second major step in the Democrats' strategy - having the Senate vote on a separate package of amendments to the bill through a simple majority vote using a process called budget reconciliation - would "come closely thereafter," Gibbs said.

Gibbs added that he was "not setting a deadline," but going by conversations with people about a schedule.

Two Democratic leadership aides told CNN last week that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is aiming to have the House complete its action by March 17. They said language in the legislation would be posted in the coming days, and that final language would be available 72 hours before a vote.

Deadlines come and gone have been a staple of President Obama's efforts to push through health care reform. "State of the Union" on Sunday ran a montage of clips of the president from the past year, first calling for a final bill "before the August recess," then for getting "health care done by the end
of this year."

But the latest prodding is unlikely to trigger the kind of rush the White House wants.

"People are still looking at some of the changes that are being made to the bill," Van Hollen told "State of the Union."

He added that "until people have a final product that they are able to look at and the Congressional Budget Office, our referee on budget issues, says whether or not this will do what the earlier bills did, then I think it's going to be hard to get people to commit."

Fellow Democratic Rep. Brian Baird, D-Washington, remains undecided about whether he will support the legislation. A practicing neuropsychologist before being elected to Congress, the retiring congressman told CNN he applauds the president and the party "for taking this difficult challenge on."

"The question is: Is this the best way we can do reform? And it is very complicated. It will be expensive, though to its credit, both bills, the House bill and the Senate bill, will be largely paid for and actually reduce the deficit over time," he said, adding that he "would have approached it perhaps a good bit differently."

The Senate's top Republican, meanwhile, made clear his party won't relax any of his efforts to halt the reform package however it can.

"What the American people would like us to do is not make this gargantuan mistake, in spite of Secretary Sebelius' best efforts," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told ABC's "This Week."

And if the bill does go through, avoiding a Republican filibuster in the Senate by using the reconciliation tactic, the battle moves to its next stage.

"Every election this fall will be a referendum on this bill," McConnell warned.

Updated: 3:02 p.m.

soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. ib

    Kill this thing before it is even voted on. Senior citizens do not need healthcare rationing; this country can't stand the added debt.

    March 7, 2010 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  2. jane

    Any Democrat who does not vote for this bill ought to have their own insurance stopped until they do!! In the end, this may be the only way the American people will ever receive a fair shake! It is shameful how this country treats so many of its sick and injured.

    March 7, 2010 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  3. sifto77

    Even the dems admit they are rolling the dice on this healthcare fiasco–they do not care–this is not about American people–it is a high-stakes power grab–at the highest levels.

    March 7, 2010 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  4. j

    It'll get passed when it gets passed.

    Why isn't more attention being paid to the SUCCESS the military AND Pres Obama are having in Afghanistan & Pakistan in routing out and capturing Taliban & Al Quaida leaders? This seems, to me, like a big win for this country and more than Bush ever accomplished. Looks like Pres Obama's foreign policy is a success and should be talked about.

    March 7, 2010 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  5. Bennie Sowers

    until the American people put a stop to the obvious bickering and kick all of the bums out who are objecting to recognize the plight of the American people nothing will get done this is ridiculous and morally sinful I hope that the day will come when life has more value than politics clearly we are not there yet, I believe that :time" will "fix" all things that are not Christ like Amen

    March 7, 2010 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  6. Hammerer

    What he is saying is that the sales price is high and the threats are not as effective as in the past. The American people are tired of corruption in Washington and some ofthe politicans are starting to feel the heat from the voters.

    March 7, 2010 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  7. Jenn, Philadelphia

    I don't understand these arbitrary deadlines from the White House. They seem to be saying "hurry up and pass the bill, the President is going away and wants to sign it before he leaves" or "hurry up and pass the bill before we go on our vacation break". If this bill is so good and so important, delay your trip or vacation and stay and take your time to do it right. Now it's the leadership telling House members "go ahead and pass this bill, even though you don't like it, we'll amend it later to fix the things you don't like". What kind of joke is that?

    March 7, 2010 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  8. John Ca.

    White House . Gov is Keeping America great but, can it use it's power to get helthcare passed before Pres. Obama goes on his trip to Asia?

    March 7, 2010 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  9. Perusing-through

    WHY IS THERE NO SHAME WITH THE DEMOCRATS?

    The Republican GOP had a 'slim majority' in the House and Senate from 2000 to 2006, and they barely held the White House from 2000 to 2008. Yet the GOP rammed through every spending bill and policy legislature they wanted, and they did it with a hair thin majority.

    Why can't the Democrats with a significantly larger margin of votes in the House and Senate, get half the things done the Republicans got done? Why are the Democrats not a shame of their effectiveness? What a bunch of spineless wimps.

    The Democrats need more elected officials like Alan Grayson.

    March 7, 2010 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  10. Block the Bill

    I've been writing my Representative and asking him to vote to block this bill and refuse to participate in a reconciliation process. A process that should be reserved for minor budgetary decisions not major bills.

    Yes we need reform, yes we need change, but to continue looking to past and shouting "Bush spent too much, we are not doing anything different...." as a justification to spend our children and grand children into a slavery of debt is immoral.

    If you don't like the Bush years, then why are you so hell bent on repeating them.

    March 7, 2010 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  11. C. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    We can't count on target dates, just pass the bill soon.

    March 7, 2010 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  12. Sue

    Obama, Pelosi, Reid and the rest of the loony left liberal Democrats have thrown the moderate blue dog Dems under the bus.......and now the blue dogs are throwing them under the bus.

    They now realize that Obama, Pelosi, and Reid have destroyed their political careers........And, they are now doing to them what Evan Bayh did to them.

    Good for the blue dogs.......It is about time that they stand up to the corruption and do what the majority of their voters want--not what Obama, Pelosi and Reid want.

    March 7, 2010 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  13. The gist of it......?

    Doing the Nations business in Washington has become a spectator sport........the two parties are constantly vying to trip the other side...
    Case in point: Pres Obamas' so-called summit to debate bipartisan solutions to the heaalth care reform....Always, politicians view reality through a dim mirror ! Seeing the trying time the country is in, whatever rhetoric is emerging from the White House or the Hill does not move anything forward.....!

    ................................."Leadership is a moral imperative".........................

    March 7, 2010 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  14. jules sand-perkins

    "Gargantuan mistake" is an apt description of the health-care folly that President Obama sees as part of his monument to himself.

    March 7, 2010 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  15. Nosey Canadians should mind their own business

    They didnt expect the neocon-Artists to have undercover agents planted in their ranks,dressed as democrats.They had planned this out years ago to make sure healthcare never became an issue.The thieves continue to win as Americans lose.Just a matter of time till the New Romans fall from greed.

    March 7, 2010 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  16. democrat no mas

    How disappointed am I? I voted in the Republican Primary, that's how much. Obama, you just don't get it.

    March 7, 2010 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  17. Fran

    they need to start over. The first 2 votes were tainted by bought and sold votes, favors, deals with drug companies and unions–and those are just the ones we know about.

    March 7, 2010 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  18. GI Joe

    How about no more recesses until health care for the entire nation is passed?

    Make them work for their money. NO MORE VACATIONS UNTIL THE WORK IS DONE.

    March 7, 2010 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  19. T'SAH from Virginia

    JUST DO IT and DO IT SOON!!! Stop showing how WEAK your backbone is when dealing with issues that NEED to be done!! Stop allowing the RepubliCAN'Ts to capitalize on our weakness!! Jeez!

    March 7, 2010 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  20. dave

    go ahead and pass it so we will know who to vote out in the fall. It will be an up and down vote. anyone who votes yes will be voted no as in bye bye

    March 7, 2010 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  21. Mike

    There is no health CARE bill. There is only a health INSURANCE bill which will bankrupt the nation, but does not put one more family doctor in one zip code anywhere in the country. If you couldn't find a decent doctor yesterday, nothing will change. This health INSURANCE bill will not make anyone healthier but will make everyone broke (except the new army of insurance industry bureaucrats that will get IRS-like powers to raid your paycheck). This bill is a catastrophe for the American people.

    March 7, 2010 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  22. TheRightTack

    Hopefully the public option returns to the table as it would be a big, positive game changer in the arena of overall costs, competitiveness, access, you name it .... Obviously, the legislation is still in the works, the final text unknown yet Mitch McConnell makes clear that "his party won't relax any of his efforts to halt the reform package however it can". So basically, Republicans are already determined to oppose something that doesn't yet exist. Does it make sense? Nope. Anybody surprised by this stance of the "Party of No"? I don't think so.

    March 7, 2010 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  23. Chris

    If this healthcare plan required everyone in the plan to help by paying, then it might work. If not, it's just another planned handout to those on Obama's welfare plan.

    March 7, 2010 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  24. Bryan

    no matter where obama is he is the least qualifed least experinced person in the room when talking about healthcare.

    Thats not a cheap policy shot it is ussaly an imperical fact.

    He is not a doctor, never worked in the healthcare industry or the insuance business. He was a lawyer representing groups like Acorn and then a professional community activist. He was a senator for less than 2 years before running full time for pres.

    He is clearly a gifted speaker and very charismatic but what exactly makes him qualifed to dictate how and when my kids get to go to the doctor?

    what am I missing here?

    March 7, 2010 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  25. Truth Still Matters

    I'm with Pres. Obama and the Dems in opposing the use of reconciliation to pass health care reform.

    March 7, 2010 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
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